Moderate Protein Best for Dieters

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Protein and Diet
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A newer study from University of Illinois says a diet consisting of moderate protein is the best way for dieters to lose fat, maintain muscle, and promote heart health through improved lipid profiles. Donald Layman, a University of Illinois professor emeritus of nutrition says not just any diet can deliver all those results when choosing a diet.

According to Layman, a moderate protein diet is not only best for lowering triglycerides, cutting heart disease risk, and reducing diabetes risk, but a moderate protein diet can also help dieters maintain weight loss long-term.

The findings, published in the March Journal of Nutrition, looked at long-term weight loss in 130 individuals from University of Illinois and Penn State University. Half of the group followed a diet consisting of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat (moderate protein), and the other half ate a diet that included 55% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 15% fat (recommended by the USDA food pyramid). Both diets contained the same amount of calories.

The group who ate moderate protein lost 22 and 38 percent more body fat than the group who ate less protein, at four, and twelve months respectively. Weight loss was the same, but eating a diet consisting of moderate amounts of protein was best for losing body fat, and sustaining lower triglyceride levels, making the moderate protein diet seemingly best for anyone on a diet.

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The extra protein is what made the difference, says Dr. Layman. "The additional protein helped dieters preserve muscle. That's important for long-term weight loss because muscle burns calories - if you lose muscle, and you used to be able to consume 2,000 calories without gaining weight, you'll find that now you can only eat, say, 1,800 calories without weight gain."

High triglyceride levels remained lower for as long as the dieters ate a moderate protein diet. Low triglyceride levels are important for preventionof heart disease. LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were initially lower in the dieters eating moderate protein, but after twelve months, both diets were equal. "This is the first study to show that short-term changes in LDL cholesterol are not maintained with long-term weight loss. Most scientists believe that high cholesterol is more a factor of genetics than of diet," explains Dr. Layman

Another benefit found in the study among the group who ate a moderate protein diet included food satisfaction. Eating more protein made the dieters less inclined to desire snacks and desserts. Food cravings were also absent with moderate protein consumption.

The study showing that moderate protein may be best for dieters was funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, The Beef Checkoff, and Kraft Foods. Nevertheless, the end- result was 23% more weight loss in the dieters who ate a moderate protein diet, compared to those who ate a diet recommended by the USDA food pyramid.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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