The Benefits of Protein
Beef up your knowledge of protein and good dietary sources.
The (Short-Term) Case for High Protein Diets
While no one knows the effect of eating a high-protein diet over the long
term, the diet appears to be safe and effective for up to six months.
Frank Hu, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at
Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston, asked a student to review
published studies on high-protein diets and try to answer these four important
Do high protein diets increase fat burning in the body?
Do they increase satiety (the sense of being "full" or "satisfied" after a
Do they decrease subsequent energy (calorie) intake by the body?
Do they lead to weight loss?
For the most part, says Hu, the answers are "yes." Protein can be converted
by the body into glucose for energy, but it takes twice as much effort as
converting carbohydrates or fats into glucose. The extra effort translates into
fewer calories available, Hu said at a recent symposium on the science of obesityobesity.
When it comes to feeling full, the clinical studies consistently showed that
high-protein diets increase satiety and decrease hunger compared with high-fat
or high-carbohydrate diets. In addition, most, but not all of the studies
reviewed showed that most people on high-protein diets took in about 10% less
energy (roughly 200 calories) per day, which could account for at least some of
the weight loss seen with this type of diet.
"There is some evidence that high-protein diets induce great fat loss," Hu
told the symposium audience. On average, high-protein diets produced an average
weight loss that was about 4.5 lbs greater than that achieved on other diets
after six months.
"Most of the studies show results for up to six months, but after six months
they begin to lose effectiveness, either because people do not adhere to this
diet very well in the long term, or because they get used to this diet
biologically," Hu tells WebMD. "So in the long term the high-protein diets tend
to lose their ability to maintain the weight."