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Health Team

Researchers look at impact of protein intake on weight loss

Posted January 3, 2012

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— 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 level in diet doesn't affect weight Protein level in diet doesn't affect weight

"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. 

11 Comments

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  • fatkatts2 Jan 9, 2012

    "Caloric intake is so important when you are watching your weight," he said.

    well, duh.

  • SirWired Jan 9, 2012

    I have a big problem with the ubiquitous "carbs are bad" theory. Carbohydrates have been THE staple source of calories for mankind since the dawn of agriculture. Rice, Wheat, Potatoes, Plantains, Casava, Barley, Corn, Yams, etc. Why are we gaining weight NOW, if carb intake is the only problem; we've been living off them for millenia.

  • SaltyOldJarhead Jan 9, 2012

    Best comment I ever heard on the importance of diet AND exercise:

    "If you're shaped like a pear and diet without strength training, at the end you'll just look like a smaller pear."

  • SaltyOldJarhead Jan 9, 2012

    Wow, we are all on the same page here - amazing for Golo!

    I would highly recommend everyone who is working out and controlling their diet to get a scale that measures body fat - they are pretty cheap these days.

    There can be a large amount of frustration in the middle weeks when you don't see anything happening on a traditional scale - the truth is you are losing fat and gaining muscle and a traditional scale hides that from you.

    We really should be looking 100% at the %body fat and not caring at all about the pounds. If the body fat is right then the weight is right, whatever it happens to be.

  • JohnnyMcRonny Jan 6, 2012

    Sheesh - where's the new here? It's been known for eons that sugars make you fat. Fat doesn't make you fat. Protein doesn't make you fat. In fact, your body has to use more energy to digest protein that carbs and fat.

    People have been brainwashed into believing the low-fat, low-protein diet (i.e., eat more grains - the likes of Monsanto will love you for it).

    As SaltyOldJarhead says (effectively) excercise more, eat less and poo more.

    I started 12 months ago and after 9 months had lost 30lbs (15 in the first 3 months). I'm the lightest I have ever been as an adult. I eat lots of veggies and protein. No refined carbs and absolutely no soy. It's all in your head. If you want to do it, you can (barring physical restrictions). Don't expect to find a magical solution.

  • snick1147 Jan 6, 2012

    This is one interpretation of this study. i read another article (by Dr. Mercola) that states even though weights between the two groups were comparable, the lean body mass of the high protein group was greater than the low protein group. In other words, the low protein group lost muscle and gained more fat that the high protein group. Since muscle requires more energy at rest than fat, the high protein group had a higher metabloism. I have been eating a high-protein diet for over a year, and have lost 50 lbs, but gained muscle. I love having more muscle!

  • CherryPicker Jan 6, 2012

    STARTED WEIGHT WATCHERS IN JAUARY 2010. WENT FROM 190 TO 146 LBS IN 6 MONTHS. TODAY I WEIGHTED IN AT A WHOPPING 147.2. PROTEIN IS ALL SO IMPORTANT FOR MAINTAINING LEAN MUSCLE MASS. REMEMBER, A POUND OF MUSCLE IS MORE DENSE THAN A POUND OF FAT. OF COURSE, NOW THAT W.W. CHANGED THE SYSTEM TO THE POINTS PLUS, WHICH BY THE WAY, DOES NOT WORK, THEY ARE REVAMPING IT AGAIN. IT'S A MONEY RACKET FOR SURE. NOW THEY SAY YOU CAN EAT ALL THE LEAN CHICKEN AND BROWN RICE UNTIL YOU FEEL FULL AND YOU WILL STILL LOSE WEIGHT. WITH THAT KIND OF THINKING, WHY DO Y'ALL NEED W.W. FOR? SOUNDS LIKE THEY ARE SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT.

  • Jetsgrl Jan 5, 2012

    I agree with Saltyoldjarheard =) Rather than your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner, opt for 5 small meals throughout the day. Snack on veggies and fruit in between. watch what you put in your salads - cheese and dressing will get you! I've been using Shakeology Shakes for breakfast and doing the Insanity workout. I've lost some weight (didn't have a ton to lose) but I've also lost inches. The scale doesn't always tell the full story. Measurements and the way your clothes fit do.

  • SnakeLady Jan 4, 2012

    I've heard "avoid white foods" ... and turns out, most "junk foods" and starchy foods are white. Refined flour, refined sugar, rice, and 'taters. ;) I don't say eliminate anything, but instead, focus on more veggies. (If only I'd follow my own advice).

    HOWEVER... a while back, I was going to the pool 2 or 3 times a week, spending 3 to 7 hours in the water during those weeks.... 3 months later, I had gained weight... 3 months after that, I had lost 12 pounds... while STILL eating the same ol' not-so-healthy foods. (Imagine if I had been eating healthier!)

    So, I still swim. (I need a chef!) :)

  • SaltyOldJarhead Jan 4, 2012

    Take a pic of yourself

    Eat 6 small, balanced meals a day to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, do 3 or 4 45 minute intense weight training sessions a week, and do 3 or 4 45 minute fast walks a week.

    Do that for 12 weeks

    Take another pic and compare the two - you'll be absolutely astonished.

    You can't just work out or just diet; it's 100% of both that give results.

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