Is The Endomorph Diet Right For You?

Endomorph, Atkins, keto, oh my! It can be confusing when you hear so many diets being touted — how do you know which one is for you? The endomorph diet is one that has resurged recently (per Today). Psychologist William H. Sheldon established three main body types in the 1940s, of which endomorph is one. Sheldon described the endomorph body as having lots of fat and gaining weight easily. According to Good Housekeeping, endomorph bodies are usually described as "round, soft, or curvy."

"The data linking dietary behaviors, success in weight loss, metabolism, and body type is limited," writes registered dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick in Today. "Only a few studies citing the potential characteristics of an endomorph body type exist." Nevertheless, the endomorph diet has emerged as "the" diet for that body type. Kirkpatrick points out that no diet is perfect, but rather its benefits can vary from person to person. Whether or not the endomorph diet is right for you will likely depend on your health needs and goals.

The endomorph diet

The endomorph diet consists of about an equal distribution of macronutrients: Around 30% of calories come from carbohydrates, 35% from protein, and 35% from fats (per Today). The diet also promotes consumption of fiber and healthy fats and discourages refined sugar and carbohydrates. The American Heart Association agrees with many of these recommendations, but advocates them for everyone, not only for those with an endomorph "type."

Fiber-rich foods include barley, lentils, Brussels sprouts, and almonds, among many others (via Cleveland Clinic). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares examples of healthy fats: walnuts, flaxseed, fatty fish, olive oil, and avocado. Examples of fats to limit according to Harvard Medical School are red meat, whole-milk dairy foods, and coconut oil.

Unlike natural sugar, which is found in fruits and vegetables, refined sugar is that which is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets (per Cancer Treatment Centers of America). This type of sugar is used to sweeten many processed foods. White flour is another type of refined carbohydrate. It is made by processing whole grain wheat; this keeps the starch but takes away the healthy bran and germ (per Herbalife Nutrition). The concern with refined sugars and carbs is that they add calories with minimal nutritional value. In addition, they can cause blood sugar and insulin levels to shoot up.

A moderate-carb diet

A low-carb diet can be defined as less than 26% of calories coming from carbs, with moderate-carb diets having around 26% to 44%, and high-carb diets deriving 45% or greater of their calories from carbs (per StatPearls). According to this categorization, the endomorph diet would be a moderate-carb diet. Atkins and keto are examples of low-carb diets (via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).

So why does the endomorph diet have fewer carbs? Well, those with an endomorph body type are thought to have greater difficulty in losing weight (per Medical News Today). Endomorphs are also thought to be sensitive to sugar and insulin. Thus it is thought that they should lower their intake of carbs to avoid blood sugar spikes and an increase in body fat.

However, very little research has been done on the endomorph diet, or moderate-carb diets in general. According to Mayo Clinic, low-carb diets do help people lose weight, but are not beneficial in the long run. As such, registered dietician Lindsey Hehman says that low-carb diets may work in the short term, for instance to help those with severe obesity to lose weight quickly (per National Institute for Fitness and Sport). But these diets are not sustainable for the long term, nutrition therapist Alissa Rumsey told U.S. News & World Report. In fact, a meta-analysis found that a diet consisting of 50–55% carbs was associated with the lowest risk for mortality.

Do body types matter?

According to Good Housekeeping, endomorphs are thought to have a higher percentage of body fat. However, the World Health Organization says that can be the case for anyone who eats more calories than they burn (per Scientific American). While there is little support for the concept of body types, Penn Medicine points out that different body shapes do exist and are largely dependent on genetics, age, sex, and lifestyle habits.

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, you can't really change your body shape. But there is also nothing inherently "wrong" with a body shape. That being said, while you cannot control where excess fat is stored on your body, you have some control over how much fat you put on. Penn Medicine has the same general recommendation for all body shapes: A balanced diet and adequate exercise. So it appears that modern diet recommendations — unlike Sheldon's of the 1940s — are not specific to body shapes.

If you are unsure about what your diet should contain, talking with your medical provider or a registered dietician is a good place to start. The diet best suited for you — whether that be the endomorph diet or another — will depend on your unique health status, goals, and lifestyle.