While patients on a weight loss diet may attempt to maintain protein intake, protein levels often fall below recommended levels.
Although previous studies have reported the health effects of higher protein intake during weight loss, little is known about how diet quality changes due to differences in protein intake in a weight loss diet.
“When people diet to lose body weight, they can eliminate all components of the diet, including protein,” explains Sue Shapses, PhD, RD. “While patients try to maintain protein intake, protein levels often fall below recommended levels,” she says. “This is an issue because patients may be compromising other healthy eating options in their diet compared to those who have higher protein intakes.”
Known health benefits associated with higher protein intake
Understanding the link between diet quality and protein intake during weight loss is important because there are known health benefits associated with higher protein intake, says Dr. shapes. “We know that adequate or moderately higher protein intake is important,” she says. “However, clinicians may not always think about how other foods in the diet – particularly low-protein or protein-free foods – are being modified at the same time. And these low-protein or no-protein dietary changes can have benefits, such as: B. A greater intake of green vegetables and a lower intake of refined grains and sugars. “
For a study published in Obesity, Drs. Shapses and colleagues how changes in self-chosen protein intake during calorie restriction (CR) altered diet quality and lean body mass (LBM). They performed a pooled analysis of completed studies in which 207 overweight or obese participants underwent similar moderate weight loss protocols. Lifestyle change counseling was delivered in 16 group sessions over 6 months, and patients were assessed before and during the 6-month CR. Diet quality was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index in subjects with lower or higher protein intakes.
Increasing protein intake brings important benefits
On average, study participants lost 5% of their baseline body weight. During the CR, the lower protein group in the study consumed an average of 58 g/day, compared to an average of 79 g/day for the higher protein group. Those with a higher protein intake during CR had a greater improvement in diet quality compared to those in the lower protein intake group. Both groups lost a similar amount of weight and fat mass during CR, but there was a greater decrease in LBM in the lower protein group than in the higher protein group (Amount).
These results suggest that moderately higher protein intake during CR improves diet quality and decreases LBM loss. “Increasing protein intake from the recommended 0.8 g/kg/day – or 18% of calories – to a moderately higher intake of 1.0 g/kg/day – or 20% of calories – has a significant impact on quality of protein nutrition as measured by the Healthy Eating Index,” says Dr. shapes. “It also altered the makeup of weight loss to mitigate LBM.” Overall, weight loss in people consuming higher levels of protein decreased LBM loss, but also altered low-protein or protein-free foods, which improved diet quality.
Remind your patients of protein goals while on a diet
according to dr Shapes, protein intake is often lower in middle-aged and older adults, particularly in dieting women. “It’s important to remind patients that to mitigate LBM loss during dieting, their protein goal should be around 20% of calories from protein,” she says. “Remarkably, all of the subjects in our study were encouraged to remain physically active themselves. Higher protein intake is likely to dampen LBM loss if unaccompanied by exercise. Another reason it’s important to hit this protein target is that it could potentially benefit bones as well.”
Understanding how LBM can be maintained during CR continues to be an area of active research. “Since higher protein intake in our study came largely from low-fat animal sources, it would be interesting to see if the results are similar when the primary protein source is from plants such as soy or other legumes,” says Dr. shapes . “Additionally, studies are needed to determine whether responses to dietary changes are similar in people consuming different ethnic foods and in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.”