Body Typing Diet has nothing to do with Nutritional intake

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LEAN Man System, weightloss, Dr Gary Mendoza, mens health, diet, nutrition

Body Type Diet

Body typing at best is pseudo-science and linking it with diet and nutritional intake is not based on any solid scientific evidence. About the only link there is between body type and nutrition is if you eat too many calories you’ll end up fat and that is where the facts stop. To claim that a certain body type should eat certain foods is ridiculous. Supporters of this diet misrepresent the research in a vain attempt to make it sound scientific and plausible.

The founder of the idea of body typing was Sheldon. His early Studies in 1940 and 1954 defined the process of somatotyping. Somatotyping is determined by the quantification of three embryonic components which Sheldon classified as endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm1. Following on from this work Sheldon then developed a labelling system of mixed types with three numbers that vary 1-7, the size of which speaks of the presence of each of the three basic characteristics of the type; a characteristic of one being no link and seven being completely that particular characteristic. Further work by Sheldon stated that the 4-4-4 somatotype is not changed by eating, or any other habits to 4-4-3, but there are only thick or thin 4-4-4 (person pure mixed type). Nowadays, most authors recognize the variability of somatotype2.

Sheldon's methodology and theories have been extensively criticized and largely discredited3,4. In fact Sheldon has been accused of being sexist, a racist, and also carrying out unethical research. Recently, the most relevant choice for defining somatotype is the process by Carter & Heath5, they listed recommendations and formulas for identification of the three main morphological types, but also defined intermediate types based on the results obtained by application of the formulas. Although the Heath-Carter somatotyping model has been used for a number of years worldwide, authors now believe that the model of the "Zagreb School“ with 24 anthropometric measures that are designed to detect latent dimensions is far more efficient and better provides usable data for further analysis2.

This potted history shows how reliable somatotyping is but most importantly highlights that it is very unusual to find someone who is exactly one body type. But this is what body typing is claiming. The following is a direct quote from a body typing website:

“Your body type can also provide information about how you respond to food intake and about your hormonal and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) characteristics. Physique characteristics can thus be linked to metabolic differences between individuals. Once someone establishes their body type, they can then adjust nutrient intake to maximize body composition and health related goals”.

The evidence for the body type diet?

Given that your body type is a mixture of all variants it is hard to understand how the above statement can be applied sensibly. If you look at the evidence provided by the body type diet guru’s most has nothing to do with body type so they are just misrepresenting the scientific evidence. The study by Kahn et al6 found that body fat deposited centrally increases modulation of islet Beta-cell function. So central fat is associated with insulin action but there is no mention of somatotyping. The Semiz study7 had 51 Obese & 31 non-obese children so not an adult population and in a very obscure journal. Again this just looked at body fat distribution and found no significance, but again this was not a study of body typing and nutrition. The Koska study8 investigated Pima indians who are a very different group to most populations. This looked at adipose tissue and centrally deposited fat, but not body types.

I could go on quoting studies here and all of the above are taken from a body typing diet website. But basically none of them are direct studies of somatotyping and none of them make a link with a certain type of diet and a certain body type. These types of diets try to dress up their programmes so it looks like they are based on solid scientific fact. They rely on the fact that people will not bother to check out the validity of the scientific evidence they have provided. As I have shown here, very often this is completely misrepresented and not relevant to the diet and doesn’t support the programme in any way.

So the next time someone suggests that you use the body type diet you can tell them “no thanks, I know I am this shape because I consumed too many calories”.


  1. International Journal of Morphology. 32(1):112-118, 2014
  2. Sport Science. 6 (1): 104‐ 2013.
  3. 45 (4): 805–33, 2008
  4. Evolutionary Psychology. 6(3): 369–85. 2008
  5. International Journal of Morphology. 32(1):112-118, 2014
  6. Kahn SE, et al. Obesity, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity and islet beta-cell function as explanations for metabolic diversity. Journal of Nutrition. 131:354S-360S. 2001.
  7. Semiz S, et al. Body fat distribution in childhood obesity: association with metabolic risk factors. Indian Pediatrics. 5:457-462. 2008
  8. Koska J, et al. Distribution of subcutaneous fat predicts insulin action in obesity in sex-specific manner. Obesity. 16:2003-2009. 2008

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