Written by Sumedha Maheshwari
Is higher protein the answer to weight woes? A new study in the journal Obesity has revealed that a protein-rich diet encourages lower intake of sugar and processed foods and higher intake of green vegetables. Simply put, proteins could help in weight loss by upping the fullness quotient in your stomach as they take longer to be broken down.
Explaining the finding, Dr Kajal Pandya Yeptho, Chief Dietician at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says, “A high protein diet does not automatically lead to weight loss. However, this diet can aid weight loss.” A high protein diet can help overweight individuals reach a lean body mass.
HOW DOES THIS WORK?
A lean body weight is the body mass that is not made up of fat or adenosine tissue. Protein helps in decreasing this issue. “Just having a high protein diet will not help you lose weight until you back it up with increased physical activity. If you’re trying to lose weight and doing a lot of exercise, there’s definitely going to be some amount of muscle breakdown. So, a high protein diet is advised to decrease muscle breakdown and increase fat breakdown,” says Dr Yeptho.
The study looked at data from multiple trials. Participants were on a six to 12-month weight loss programme with weekly and bi-monthly sessions with a registered dietician and nutritionist. Altogether 207 adults were analysed. The researchers analysed their diet intake and divided people into the lower protein group and higher protein group. They found that higher protein diets led to healthier eating overall and aided weight loss. “Usually protein-rich foods keep you fuller for a longer time. This satiety value makes you consume fewer calories and limits your cravings at odd hours. This naturally helps in reducing excess weight and keeps you fit. Proteins further increase metabolism which keeps you physically active. A high protein diet can help you burn 80 to 100 more calories everyday than usual,” says Dr Yeptho.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH PROTEINS
However, there are some safety measures needed if one is going on a diet like this. “A person requires only a particular amount of protein and that varies from person to person. This depends on the kind of body build that one has and the kind of exercise one does. You cannot just keep taking huge amounts of protein without knowing what is required,” says Dr Yeptho.
She strongly recommends getting in touch with a professional first. “We must realise that a higher protein intake is completely inadvisable for people suffering from kidney disease. Diabetics must know that the body converts excess protein to glucose to be used for energy, which could cause a spike in blood sugar levels,” she cautions.
Dr Yeptho also recommends some high protein foods. “For vegetarians, it’s dal. There’s egg which is a first-class protein from an animal source. Other animal sources will be milk, milk products, meat, fish and chicken.”
DON’T BLINDLY BELIEVE IN STUDIES
However, the study does have some limitations which make it difficult to be applied to everyone. The diet intake was self-reported by participants so there is always a chance of error in the data. But according to the study, “a dietitian educated participants to accurately report food intake and reviewed this with participants to reinforce validity of intake.” This reduces the risk of errors.
The study included both men and women but primarily from the White population. Also, the study was limited to one primary location which means it cannot be generalised for a larger population.
This does not mean protein is not beneficial. As Dr Yeptho says, “Protein has a lot of benefits and this is just one of them. If someone wants to achieve a healthier weight, a high protein diet will certainly aid them. But the form and kind of protein is very important. People have to understand what is required for them. There are still gaps in the research regarding the connection between protein and lean body mass. But scientifically speaking, a diet must be balanced and customised for each body type and condition.”