We are at the apex of a massive epidemic. 85% of adult Americans are 'overfat', and 70% of adults globally carry more body fat than they should. This increases risk of chronic disease and shortens healthspan. Treating obesity-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases is a huge global financial burden, added to by the loss of productive years of life in those who are overfat.
We know the answer is 'Eat Less Move More', but attempts to consciously eat less of the same food that made you fat are doomed to failure. Why? Hunger due to lack of satiety.
For millions of years, no animal on earth including humans had to worry about eating too much, even if food was plentiful. Now, all humans and animals under their care are at risk for storing too much energy as fat thanks to our agricultural and industrial technologies which give us access to cheap and ubiquitous empty energy calories from things like sugar, flour, and oil. These high energy foods add energy to our bodies without providing the protein and mineral satiety of natural foods.
Plants generate all animal nutrition. They draw up nitrogen and other essential minerals from topsoil, provided by bacteria and other decomposers. They then use solar energy plus atmospheric carbon dioxide to create carbohydrates and fats. They store solar energy as the carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds in carbohydrates and fats (bonds that animals later break in their mitochondria to extract this energy). They use nitrogen from the soil which is a requirement for any type of protein (all amino acids, the building blocks of protein, must contain nitrogen). When animals eat these plants, they collect and concentrate the nutrients and energy within them and use this to build their own bodies.
All plants and animals have a certain amount of protein, which must contain nitrogen from the soil, and also a certain amount of energy (carbohydrates and fat), which contains carbons from atmospheric carbon dioxide. So every plant and animal could be thought of as having a nitrogen to carbon ratio, or a protein to energy ratio. As you go higher and higher in the food chain, you tend to see higher and higher nitrogen to carbon (or protein to energy) ratios. For example, grass is fairly high in carbon but low in nitrogen, because the grass plant has limited access to nitrogen (only as much as its roots can touch) but essentially unlimited access to carbon (carbon dioxide) for energy. So grass will have more carbons than nitrogen, or a low protein to energy ratio. A cow, however, walks around and eats all the grass it wants. It is getting both nitrogen (protein) and carbon (energy) from the grass, but it concentrates the nitrogen as it builds the proteins in its body. When you eat a cow, you are getting a much higher protein to energy ratio, thanks to this concentration of nutrients. A cow however stores quite a bit of carbon energy in the form of fat. If you go even higher on the food chain and look at a carnivore such as a lion, you will see an even higher protein to energy ratio, as carnivores are always leaner than herbivores.
Plants concentrate and store energy mostly as carbohydrates, and to a lesser degree as fats. Animals concentrate and store energy mostly as fats, and to a lesser degree as carbohydrates (we have small amounts of glycogen, or stored glucose, in our liver and muscles). Not only will every plant and animal have a slightly different amount of stored energy, but also various PARTS of plants and animals will have different amounts of stored energy. For example, a cow concentrates energy in its milk, designed for its offspring. Milk contains a lot of both sugar (lactose) and fat (milk fat) energy, and is actually fairly low in protein by comparison. So the protein to energy ratio of milk is fairly low because milk concentrates a high amount of energy (carbs and fats). If you eat any other part of the cow, or the entire cow, you are getting a much higher protein to energy ratio-unless you were to cut off some tallow, or pure beef fat, which would be extremely high in energy and thus have a low protein to energy ratio. Similarly, plants will concentrate energy in various locations. Tubers such as potatoes, for example, are a specialized plant organ where the plant stores a lot of carbohydrate energy (as starch, which is just chains of glucose). So a potato has a low protein to energy ratio because it is very high energy. Plants also tend to have high energy concentration in their nuts and seeds and fruit, so you will get a lower protein to energy ratio from eating these as compared to eating an ENTIRE plant (think something like asparagus or celery), which will have a higher protein to energy ratio.
Enter the industrial revolution, with the bulk refining and transport of sugar, flour, and oil. These nearly empty carbohydrate and fat calories, mostly devoid of protein and minerals, add energy to our diets without much in the way of satiety. These 'acellular' food-like ingredients are, generally speaking, always vastly inferior to eating food that is still in a cellular structure. Any whole plant or animal food will remain in a cellular form that usually conveys superior nutrition, with higher satiety and a better macronutrient and micronutrient profile. For example, any whole plant or animal food will always contain a significant amount of protein-but processed and refined empty acellular energy calories such as sugar and oil are pure carbohydrates and fats with no protein whatsoever.
This is important because humans have a very high protein satiety drive. We also require minerals for satiety. So we will eat and eat until we get enough protein and minerals. If you are eating a food that is very high in energy but low in protein and minerals, you will have to overeat energy to get enough protein-and your body stores that excess energy as fat. We also see the bodies of animals start to gain a protein to energy ratio that reflects the protein to energy ratio of their diet. As an extreme example, imagine eating nothing but pure energy, like sugar and butter. Your body has to either burn or store this energy, so unless you start running marathons or something, the energy you store as fat will start lowering the protein to energy ratio of your body. Now imagine that the only thing you eat is some very lean protein, like fish and chicken breasts. You will have plenty of protein to support your lean mass (muscle etc), but you will barely have enough energy to survive and as your fat mass goes down, the protein to energy ratio of your body will go up.
Back in the Paleolithic, we ate a very high protein diet, and we constantly looked for ways to add extra energy to this diet. We solved this problem with the technology of agriculture and the domestication of plants and animals for food. Now we have plentiful and readily available energy from plants as well as a higher concentration of energy in our well-fed fattened domesticated animals. As a result of this 'protein dilution', we developed shorter stature and diminished health after the agricultural revolution. But this protein dilution dramatically worsened with the advent of the industrial revolution and the bulk refining and transport of empty energy calories like sugar, flour, and oil. Now the majority of humans on earth are overfat, thanks to our exposure to unlimited energy calories.
About ten thousand years ago, humans invented agriculture and we domesticated plants and animals to ensure that we had a readily available source of food. We have slowly improved the energy yield from these cultivated plants and animals, producing larger and more energy-rich foods. Take corn for example. Pre-agriculture corn was a tiny wild grass with a tiny seed head. We have now cross-bred and hybridized and genetically modified corn to be a giant energy-filled food, with so much stored carbon energy that you can simply squeeze it and evaporate it and make corn syrup AND corn oil from it. The protein and mineral yield of the corn did not increase, but the amount of energy stored as carbon in the corn (as carbohydrates and fats) has increased exponentially. In the Paleolithic, when humans were hunter-gatherers, our dietary protein to energy ratio was much higher, and the agricultural revolution significantly lowered this ratio, by adding in a lot more energy. Energy from animal foods was also increased, as animals under our care are well-fed and have more stored energy (fat) in their bodies compared to wild game.
Humans have always used technology to feed themselves. That is really our special niche. We don't have great fangs for biting gazelles like a lion. We don't have specially designed hands to dig up tubers, or climbing skills to live off fruit and foliage like our primate cousins. We don't have the large flat teeth and multiple stomachs to ferment cellulose and live off grass like a ruminant. BUT we excel at using tools and technology. We can throw weapons with far more skill and accuracy than any other animal on earth, and we are smart enough to build traps and hunt in groups and do whatever we have to in order to kill our prey. We also evolved food processing and cooking in order to extract more nutrients and energy from our food, so that our brains could get bigger at the same time that our gastrointestinal tracts got smaller. Humans evolved to be 'cucinivores', which means that we literally live on cooked and processed food. In modern times, 'processed food' usually has a LOWER nutrient density than unprocessed food, but historically, processing has improved nutritional value. For example, soaking and sprouting beans and grains and other seeds improves nutritional value. Fermenting vegetables (and dairy) improves nutritional value. And of course cooking and processing meat increases nutrient yield.
Unfortunately, there are huge economic factors here. Protein is always the most expensive macronutrient. Refined carbs and fats are always less expensive. This is why obesity and poverty now go hand in hand.
Another huge factor is the combination of high carbs with high fat. This combination is almost never found in nature. Notable exceptions include mammalian breast milk, designed to grow baby mammals as fast as possible, and certain nuts, such as acorns, which are only available in the autumn when bears and squirrels are trying to store as much fat as possible. Foods high in carb and fat together produce more brain reward and as a result they can be quite addictive. They are also designed to drive overeating (hyperphagia), as this combination was historically only seen in late summer/early autumn when we had access to much higher food energy thanks to the solar energy of summertime (more plant carbohydrates and also more fat from fatter animals). All of our problematic foods are carbs plus fat: doughnuts, ice cream, french fries, etc. The perfect obesity ratio is also the ratio of specially designed obesogenic rodent chow used to study obesity and type 2 diabetes. This appears to be at a fairly low protein percentage of about 10%, with high amounts of carbs and fat together (about 50% fat and 40% carbohydrate). These happen to be the exact macros of many obesogenic foods.
The reality is that by either going low fat or low carb, you are significantly increasing the protein to energy ratio of your diet. With either strategy you will see more protein and mineral satiety. Also with either of these strategies you are going to avoid the hyperphagia of carbs+fat together. So we see huge successes with either a low fat or a low carb approach. This is why there will never be an end to the macronutrient wars. In actuality, both sides are correct. The smartest approach is actually a combination of the two-by avoiding both refined added carbs AND fats you will achieve the highest protein to energy ratio of all. This is a strategy employed by many bodybuilders, to great success. You can accomplish this by targeting foods that are the highest in protein and fiber and the lowest in fats and non-fiber (glucose-producing) carbohydrates. Enter the Protein:Energy Ratio. To calculate this, you take grams of protein and divide it by grams of non-protein energy (non-fiber carbs plus fats). As you eat higher protein to energy ratios in your diet you will see higher protein to energy ratios reflected in body composition.
Simply enter four numbers into the calculator:

• protein grams
• fat grams
• carbohydrate grams
• fiber grams

The equation is protein divided by non-protein energy (which is net carbs plus fat).

To eat this way intuitively, simply target foods with either protein or fiber as the dominant macronutrient.
We like eating energy. Why? Because for 2.5 million years, we struggled to get enough energy to survive. Imagine that you are a hunter-gather in the Paleolithic era, prior to agriculture and the cultivation of plant foods. Maybe all you have is a spear and that's pretty much it. You are not going to find a lot of carbohydrate energy in wild, uncultivated plants-in fact, you might struggle just to find any plant that is non-toxic (most plants are poisonous). Eventually you're going to have to kill an animal and pretty much eat the entire thing. These animals, however, are also trying to get enough energy to survive, so they certainly don't have lots of spare energy in their bodies. So our hunter-gatherer ancestors were eating a very high protein to energy ratio-so high, in fact, that they were always looking for any way possible to increase the energy content of their diet. Cracking open up animal skulls and long bones to get the high-fat brains and bone marrow? Definitely! Braving bee stings just to get some honey? You better believe it.
Watch the Video:
About P:E Ratio