Last updated: April 2022
Protein rich foods have long been respected for their nutrient density. More recently protein has received attention for its potential to assist in weight management.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009-2010:
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
Health risks of being overweight or obese:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Some types of cancer
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Sleep apnea
If you are overweight or obese a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can result in numerous health benefits, some of which include:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Improved blood sugar levels
- Improved blood pressure and blood lipids (both of which may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke)
If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes you may be following a carbohydrate restricted diet in an effort to lose weight and control blood sugar levels. While knowing your carb intake is important for many (this is especially true for those of you who take rapid acting insulin at meals), what if our focus shifted to counting protein (instead of carbs)?
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an article, titled: Protein, weight management and satiety. This article explains how protein increases satiety (feeling of being full after a meal) and therefore helps with short and long term weight loss.
Some of the take away points from this article:
(1) Research studies have demonstrated: increasing the percentage of protein in the diet may improve body composition, facilitate fat loss, and improve weight maintenance after weight loss.
(2) The positive outcomes seen with an increased protein intake are thought to be due to reduced energy intake. Protein increases satiety thus reducing overall energy intake.
(3) Protein also increases thermogenesis (the energy required to digest food) thus increasing total energy expenditure (the total number of calories/energy an individual burns each day).
(4) Increased protein intake at a meal may suppress plasma ghrelin levels more in comparison to a high fat meal.
- Ghrelin is a hormone, released primarily in the stomach, that tells the brain you’re hungry.
(5) The type of protein may also be important with animal sources being more filling than plant sources.
(6) The definition of “high-protein” varies considerably. It may be expressed as a percentage (i.e. 27-68% of total calories) or as an absolute amount (i.e. 90-200 + grams/day)
- Current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein: Male (ages 19- >70) 56 grams/day; Female (ages 19->70, not pregnant or lactating): 46 grams/day
- A 12-month study of overweight and obese individuals showed that individuals who consumed 25 percent of their energy as protein had a greater amount of weight loss than those who consumed 12 percent of their energy intake as protein.
- 25 percent of total energy intake as protein for a person consuming 1800 calories/day= 113 grams of protein/day
- 12 percent of total energy intake as protein for a person consuming 1800 calories/day = 54 grams of protein/day
What should you do with this information?
As always, first discuss any dietary changes you are considering with your physician. To learn more check out the following articles:
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