UK Study Suggests Common Belief About High Calorie Foods Is All Wrong

In April 2022, ScienceDirect made available the findings of Jeffrey Brunstrom, a researcher at the University of Bristol, and Mark Schactzker, a writer famous for the book "The Dorito Effect." Their question was whether people had "nutritional wisdom." In other words, humans show the same ability as animals to select foods on the basis of the foods' micronutrients.

The study, as Schactzker detailed in a Twitter thread, began when he delivered a talk expressing his belief in a nutritional wisdom. Brunstrom and like the other "very accomplished scientists who tended to think 'nutritional wisdom' is outdated, Goop-worthy claptrap" thought Schactzker was wrong. However, unlike the rest, Brunstrom offered to put the theory to the test.

Talking to the BBC, the two explained that they showed people various fruits and vegetables. They then asked the participants to curate a snack for themselves. The average person wouldn't know what the best combination would be — but they still managed to choose that combination. "Now it's a small effect," Brunstrom admitted, "but it was a reliable effect." "Even more interesting," Schactzker wrote, "people seem to choose against pairings that produce an unneeded excess of micronutrients. Nutritional wisdom seems wise indeed."

They cautioned against interpreting the data too far. For example, there is no clear evidence to suggest we turn towards spinach when we have an iron deficiency. Nor does it explain why some societies are more nutritious than others. After all, if our nutritional wisdom was so clear cut, we would instinctively be nutritious.

This could radically alter our view of people

On its own, the study doesn't necessarily sound as groundbreaking as it is. The full radical scope of the evidence can be seen in a separate paper co-authored by Jeffery Brunstrom and other researchers at the University of Bristol which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April. In it, researchers argue that we have to stop considering people through the lens of mindless calorie consumers.

"For years we've believed that humans mindlessly overeat energy-rich meals," Annika Flynn, the lead author of the paper, said in an article written by the University of Bristol. What surprised them, though, was that when people began consuming meals that were engineered to have greater calorie amounts, they instinctively reduced the amount of food they ate. In other words, they subconsciously balanced their intake to be more nutritious. "This research gives added weight to the idea humans aren't passive overeaters after all, but show the discerning ability to moderate how much of an energy-rich meal they consume," Jeff Brunstrom concluded.

He continued by explaining how this new found complexity ties into what has been referred to as "nutritional intelligence." What these studies then tell us is that the obesity associated with caloric food operates in a more nuanced manner than previously thought. Moreover, the two studies taken together indicate that Mark Schactzker wasn't proposing Goopy claptrap as many thought.