What the heck is metabolic typing and is it for real?
February 20, 2009 4:55 AM   Subscribe

What is (the deal with) metabolic typing?

I am looking into nutritionists in my area and several of them specialize in and use metabolic typing. I have done some online research about what that is, but I'm having trouble finding what I consider real, substantive info about it, such as: is it effective, sustainable and a sound way of maintaining a healthy and fit diet and body? I can't tell if it's kind of a bullshit fad or something scientifically sound. I am not interested in dietary changes or recommendations that are elaborate, restrictive and/or based in fleeting crackpot theories about nutrition, so if that's what this is, I sort of want to know that up front.

Does anyone have experience with or knowledge about metabolic typing?

posted by Rudy Gerner to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite


I don't know much about actual scientific results, but everything I've read seems logically consistent, for what it's worth. More importantly, I've played with my diet after taking a couple of the tests, and I think it has made a significant difference in my life. (If I deviate from what I've figured out over time, I get shaky and spacy or sleepy, depending on what I left out. I have a clear mind and healthy body and no hunger if I follow my personal plan. If anything, it sensitizes you to how food affects you.)

It's really not that restrictive--I think you can eat as much as you want, as long as the proportions are right. It's worth a real try for one to six months!

So, whether it's based on good science or not, they do seem to be on to something...
posted by zeek321 at 5:29 AM on February 20, 2009

Metabolic Typing is basically quack science. It's based on the idea that individual humans are so varied as to require a very different diet depending on geographic and ethnic origin (I'm simplifying, but that's basically it). It claims to tell you whether you're a 'carb type', a 'protein type' or a 'mixed type', and makes dietary recommendations on the basis of those labels. This fad appears to have evolved from observations about intolerances for certain foods being more prevalent in different populations.

There's pretty much zero hard science to back any of it up, of course.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:57 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the quack science. Someone made a lot of money about ten years ago writing a book about it and all my mom's Wiccan friends bought it.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2009

Best answer: If you're not interested in quackery, avoid people with generic "nutritionist" titles. Look for someone who is credentialed, like a Registered Dietitian. If you are in the US, go here to find a nutritionist who is registered with the American Dietetic Association. That way you will get evidence-based nutrition advice, and you can ask them all about metabolic typing and its value.

Metabolic typing sounds a bit shystery to me, just based on my experience in an accredited nutrition degree program.
posted by peggynature at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2009

My kind of long and roundabout two cents' worth:

IANAD/IANANutritionist, but I am a trained researcher and librarian who has struggled with weight issues for a long time and have read tons of stuff on diet, metabolism, and how there is no "one size fits all" diet. That being said, I think metabolic typing is part quackery, part truth.

I firmly believe that we all do have different genetic makeups and thus, different dietary requirements. The many years I was a vegetarian, I was constantly sick, overweight, and fatigued. After learning I was prediabetic, I switched to a high protein, controlled carb diet and - guess what? - rarely sick, lost weight, gained energy.

Genetically I'm a mutt, but with a good chunk of ethnic Georgian. Studies have been done going back to the early part of the last century on the health and long lifespans of the peoples of the Caucasus, who traditionally ate a protein-based diet low in grains and sugars (read Weston Price and G. Z. Pitskhelauri if interested). Recent studies have shown that since processed and fast foods have come to the region - read refined carbs - lifespans have declined and health issues such as diabetes and heart disease have risen. Similar studies have been done on Alaskan and Southwestern native populations.

To me, this is good proof that there are different metabolic types, and foods affect people of one metabolic type differently than others. My friends of east Asian descent, for instance, eat tons of refined carbs - hello, white rice - and are thin and healthy. I so much as look at a bowl of rice, and gain five pounds.

After all that - I'd say the nutritionist consultation is worth a try. Red flags should go up if they recommend anything other than dietary changes - if they tell you to buy supplements or products, that's crossing the line into quackery IMO.
posted by chez shoes at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all very helpful so far. Thank you.

Thanks, peggynature. That database brought up a lot of registered dietitians near me. And I can see all the areas in which they specialize and what the rest of their credentials are. It's actually pretty compelling compared to this other person who has only the metabolic typing certification. That said, what I like about that person's practice is that it a little hippy dippy in that it focuses on mindful eating, how to deal with the grocery store, making good choices, having a better relationship with food, etc., all of which are valuable to me.

I'll be trying to hold out for a nutritionist who has the science background and credentials with some of the more woo-woo philosophical leanings...

If folks have any other ideas or suggestions, please let me know!

Thanks, all.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2009

Best answer: While metabolic typing may be bunk, plenty of people do need to adjust their diet to be higher in protein or fat than the standard RDA. Your body may run optimally on the food pyramid, but not everyone does.

Ideally, your Dietitian should have a good understanding of the important things that impact your body. My Registered Dietitian is also a certified trainer with an additional certification in Sports Dietetics. (I've written about him here before.) That's a very nice combination for me since I'm an endurance runner. He can see how my nutrition plan impacts my training and make appropriate adjustments. We've adjusted my nutrition plan to more lean protein and fat with moderate amounts of complex carbs, because my body functions best on that.

If you've got specific concerns - fat loss, endurance sports, a specific health disorder - make sure that the RD you hire has experience and training in that area.
posted by 26.2 at 10:10 AM on February 20, 2009

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