Researchers look at impact of protein intake on weight loss
Posted January 3, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — New Year's resolutions often center around personal improvement. Quite often, that personal improvement means losing weight and getting in shape.
Although exercise is a key piece in trying to slim down, eating a healthy diet is still the first step in sticking to the resolution that gets broken more often than not.
A recent study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center looked at protein intake and how that can impact fat storage and, in turn, weight gain or loss.
Researchers tested 25 normal-weight or slightly overweight men and women between 18 and 35 to see just how much eating a low-, normal- or high-protein diet matters when totaling calories.
Testers went on those different diets for about eight weeks while also eating an extra 1,000 calories per day.
"Fat storage was exactly the same with all three levels of protein," Pennington Biomedical Dr. George A. Bray said. "That is, it was the calories that they ate that affected the body fat they stored."
The study also found protein intake had no effect on the storage of fat. One tester, Daniel Kuhm, ate a low-protein diet and gained between 12 and 15 pounds. Despite that, Kuhn and other members of the low-protein group lost lean body mass.
"Protein has one set of effects, and calories have another set of effects," Bray said. "They are not directly connected."
The major factor in all of the groups was calorie intake rather than the level of protein in the diet. Doctors still recommend getting a healthy dose of protein by eating beef, chicken or fish, but said it doesn't necessarily influence the storage of calories.
Kuhn, who drastically changed his healthy eating habits to take part in the study, said the experience reinforced what he already knew.
"Caloric intake is so important when you are watching your weight," he said.
For those looking to cut back early in 2012, doctors recommend cutting back portions to help control calories. They also recommend weighing regularly.