Moderate Protein May Beat High-Carb Diet

In an article published in Reuters (03/18/009), a new study suggests that while people lose weight when they cut back on calories, some additional protein in your diet may be more effective in reducing body fat and improving blood fat.

The researcher team, led by Dr. Donald K. Layman, of the University of Illinois in Urbana, discovered that in a year, a moderate-protein diet helped overweight adults lose body fat better than the usual high-carb, low-fat diet.

Also, a moderate-protein diet helped boost "good" HDL cholesterol and reducing triglycerides, a type of blood fat that add to clogged.

The findings of the research suggest that substituting some carbs with protein may benefit dieters.

130 overweight adult participants were randomly assigned to one of two calorie-restricted diets.

The first one is the standard higher-carb diet where:

  • 15 percent of calories came from protein
  • 55 percent from carbs
  • 30 percent from fats

The second is the moderate-protein calorie diet wherein:

  • 30 percent of calories came from protein (including lean meat, low-fat dairy, nuts)
  • 40 percent came from carbs
  • 30 percent from fats

The participants were provided with menu plans and went to weekly meetings with a dietitian to help them stay on their diet and new lifestyle.

After a year, both groups’ average weight loss was pretty close: 23 pounds with the moderate-protein diet; 19 pounds with the high-carb diet.

However, when it came to fat mass, the moderate-protein diet group lost more; the group members also showed greater improvements in HDL and triglyceride levels.

The reason behind this, Layman explained, is because the added protein at each meal helps preserve "metabolically active" muscle mass. He also said in his interview with Reuters, that the diet’s lower carb content means lower insulin. Thus, it induces the body to lose more stored fat.

Layman also attributes the improvement in triglycerides to lower carbs, which can raise triglyceride levels.

It is also noted in the article that in order for any diet to work, people must do it right. For this research, the participants received a lot of help: planned menu, and weekly meetings with dietitians. We can’t be sure whether this will work otherwise or if people will do as well without assistance.

"One of the problems with moderate protein diets is that people bring old diet concepts to their approach," Layman said, giving the following example:

"The concept of eating "lots of small meals" throughout the day works when the diet is high-carb, low-fat because people are hungry more often — but it’s a bad idea with a moderate-protein diet."

"The important change is three consistent meals with balance of protein and carbohydrates at each meal," Layman said. "A higher protein diet is not more protein at dinner, but balanced protein at breakfast and lunch."

The complete findings of this research are reported in the Journal of Nutrition (March 2009).

Source: Reuter