If you want to lose weight, cut calories. To trim body fat and improve blood levels of cholesterol, cut calories and add some extra protein to your weight loss diet plan, say researchers from the University of Illinois.
In this new study, 130 overweight adults were assigned to one of two calorie-restricted diets: the commonly recommended higher-carb diet (15 percent of total calories from protein, 55 percent from carbohydrates and 30 percent from fat) or a moderate-protein diet (30 percent of total calories from protein, 40 percent from carbs, and 30 percent from fat).
Lean meat such as fish and poultry, low-fat dairy and nuts were sources of extra protein in the moderate-protein diet.
All participants were given menu plans and attended weekly meetings with a dietitian to help them stick with their new diets.
After one year, the overweight adults on the moderate-protein diet lost an average of 23 pounds while the high-carb dieters lost an average of 19 pounds per person.
Loss of fat mass was greater in the moderate-protein dieters. The extra protein also resulted in higher levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and greater decreases in triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
It's thought that eating extra protein at each meal helps dieters preserve "metabolically active" muscle mass, says this study's lead researcher. Lower intake of carbohydrates also means lower levels insulin, a hormone that helps regulate storage of blood sugar and blood fats.
The problem with any diet is that people have to do it right to be successful.
In this study, dieters in both groups had planned menus and weekly educational sessions with a dietitian to ensure that they were eating the right amounts of protein and carbohydrates.
Would you like weekly meetings with a registered dietitian to help with your weight loss goals? Check out how you can work one-on-one with Leslie Beck, RD, author of the No-Fail Diet.
This study was published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
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