Higher protein intake while dieting leads to healthier eating - healing practice

High-protein diets prevent loss of lean body mass

Scientific studies show time and time again that high protein diets can promote weight loss. A new study now provides evidence that high protein intake while dieting also leads to healthier eating while helping to prevent lean body mass loss.

An analysis of pooled data from several weight loss studies conducted at Rutgers University (USA) shows that a small increase in the amount of protein in a person's dietary intake from 18 to 20% has a significant impact on the quality of food choices. The study was published in the medical journal Obesity.

Moderately higher protein intake

"Notably, a slightly higher self-selected dietary protein intake is associated with higher intakes of green leafy vegetables and lower intakes of refined grains and added sugars," Sue Shapses said in a statement.

"But that's exactly what we found," says the study author and professor of nutrition at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS).

Additionally, researchers found that a moderately higher protein intake conferred another benefit to dieters: less loss of lean body mass, often associated with weight loss.

When dieting, healthy foods are sometimes reduced

Weight loss programs that include calorie restriction can often cause people trying to lose weight to reduce their intake of healthy foods containing micronutrients such as iron and zinc.

Eating higher amounts of protein is often associated with healthier outcomes, but the link between protein intake and diet quality is poorly understood, experts say.

"The impact of self-selected dietary protein on diet quality has, to our knowledge, never been studied in this way before," says Anna Ogilvie, study co-author and doctoral student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. from Rutgers SEBS.

“Exploring the relationship between protein intake and diet quality is important because diet quality in the United States is often suboptimal and high-protein diets are popular for weight loss. weight."

Overweight participants

The data was collected from more than 200 men and women who participated in clinical trials at Rutgers University funded by the National Institutes of Health over the past two decades.

The subjects were between the ages of 24 and 75 and had a body mass index that classified them as overweight or obese. All participants were encouraged to lose weight on a 500-calorie deficit diet and met regularly for nutritional counseling over a six-month period.

They were encouraged to get 18% of their calories from lean protein like poultry, unprocessed red meat, fish, legumes and dairy, and to use the rest of their calories from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They were discouraged from consuming saturated fats, refined grains, sugar and salt.

Participants kept detailed food records, which the researchers analyzed for diet quality, specific categories of foods eaten, and specific protein sources.

Test subjects were then divided into a low-protein approach with 18% of total calories from protein or a high-protein approach with 20% of total food intake from protein.

Mix of healthier foods

The study concludes:

Participants in both groups lost the same amount of weight — about five percent of their body weight over six months. Those in the high-protein group opted for a healthier food mix overall. Specifically, these participants increased their intake of green vegetables and reduced sugar and refined grains. Those in the high-protein group were better able to maintain lean muscle mass.

Author and source information

Show now

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Rutgers University: High Protein Intake While Dieting Leads To Healthier Eating, (Accessed: Jun 28, 2022), Rutgers University Anna R Ogilvie, Yvette Schlessel, Deeptha Sukumar, Lingqiong Meng, Sue A Shapses: Higher Protein Intake high during calorie restriction improves diet quality and mitigates loss of lean body mass; in: Obesity, (published: 2022-05-11), Obesity

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.