- Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet, including those on weight loss programs.
- According to a new studyIReducing a person’s protein intake can improve people’s food choices and reduce the amount of sugar and refined grains they consume.
- Researchers found that among people looking to lose weight, increased protein intake can also reduce lean body mass loss.
Eating a variety of nutritious foods is essential for health and well-being. What makes up everyone’s diet affects many areas of health, including maintaining a healthy weight. Protein is an important component of the diet.
One challenge for people who are losing weight is maintaining lean body mass while shedding excess fat. Lean body mass (LBM) refers to body mass that is not made up of adipose tissue or body fat. Part of this amount is made up of muscle, or muscle mass.
Dr. Anastasia Road with the Faculty of Medicine of University College London, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical news today:
“While some diets, lifestyles, [behavioral]While pharmacological or combined weight loss interventions hold great promise, they often face the challenge of losing lean body mass, which causes a variety of negative health effects. It affects a person’s quality of life, [and] ability to conduct activities of daily living, has an effect on neuromuscular function, emotions and psychological state, and it also affects the sustainability of weight loss as it is associated with metabolic decline. “
“The holy grail of a successful weight loss intervention is figuring out how to maintain LBM. Therefore, weight loss strategies that preserve lean body mass are valuable. “
– Dr. Anastasia Sugar
Researchers are still working to understand how protein foods affect lean muscle mass and how to best implement protein into a weight loss diet.
In this study, the researchers sought to look at how “changes in elective protein intake during calorie restriction (CR) alter diet quality and lean body mass (LBM). “.
The study used pooled data from multiple trials and included participants who met specific eligibility criteria. Researchers evaluated 207 adults before and over six months on a calorie-restricted diet.
All participants were overweight or obese. All participants underwent a weight loss intervention lasting between six and twelve months. They all had weekly counseling sessions for the first eight weeks and follow-up visits with a registered dietitian.
The researchers assessed both body composition through dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and diet. They also looked at ingredients such as protein sources and dietary quality. Based on intake data, they divided the participants into two groups: lower and higher protein intake.
Research author Dr. Sue Shapesa professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, says MNT: “In this study design, we split the number of participants in half based on how much protein they consumed during the 6 months of weight loss.”
The researchers found that the amount of weight loss was similar for both groups. However, in the high-protein group, less body mass was lost.
Participants in the high-protein group also had more healthy food choices, such as increasing their green vegetable intake and reducing their consumption of refined grains and added sugars.
GS Shapes explains:
“One surprising aspect of this study is that while all subjects were instructed to consume adequate protein and a healthy diet during the weight loss trial, it was unexpected that those who ate the least protein has less desirable results.”
“We found that people who consumed less protein also ate lower-quality foods (like more refined grains, added sugar, and fewer greens).”
– Dr. Sue Shapes
This study indicates overall that increasing the protein component of the diet may be beneficial for people who are working to lose weight. However, it has a few limitations.
For example, participants self-reported their portion sizes, so there is the potential for errors in data collection. However, participants were counseled on how to record food intake, and food intake data collection took place over multiple time periods, which reduced the risk of error.
In addition, the type of protein can also affect benefits. In this study, the majority of the protein the participants consumed came from lean meat or plant-based sources. The study authors note that the study primarily included white women and was completed at one primary site, so the results are not necessarily generalizable.
The methods the researchers used to measure lean body mass also failed to distinguish mass from organs and mass from muscle. Therefore, we cannot assume that the loss of lean muscle mass in the lower protein group is solely due to muscle loss.
As research progresses in this area, more people may choose to incorporate healthy protein options into their diet so that they reach a healthy weight. This concept and continuing research may also help people maintain lean body mass, even when they are looking to lose weight.
GS Shapes noted:
“At any point, a greater reduction in LBM is not a good outcome, but it is particularly unprofitable for middle-aged and older people who are trying to lose weight for health reasons. “
“The higher protein group lost as much fat as the lower protein group, but was able to minimize LBM loss (indicating muscle weight loss),” she notes.
Dr Kalea says there are still knowledge gaps to be addressed regarding this area of research.
“We have made progress in understanding aspects of protein quality and digestibility, but we need to better understand how to maintain LBM when we are restricting energy for weight loss purposes, we need to understand whether the combination of different protein sources in one diet affects LBM, and how to personalize our interventions and effectively determine adequate intake for each individual person,” she said.