Dec. 14, 2022 -- Millions of Americans struggle to lose weight, do so successfully, and then gain most of it back, research shows.
Now, researchers investigating this weight regain after dieting say they might have made progress in understanding why, in a study published in Nature Metabolism.
Eating a high-protein diet after losing weight reduces a specific gut bacterium that’s linked to fat absorption during digestion. Lowering levels of this bacteria – from eating a lot of protein or from antibiotics – could help sustain weight loss.
Globally, they say, obesity has tripled in 50 years. It leads to higher risk of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, several cancers and many more health problems.
They studied the effects on mice of diets with different protein after the mice had been on dietary restrictions. The high-protein diets were best in preventing quick weight regain and partially maintained weight loss later.
They found that high-protein diets prevented some intestinal fat absorption, and that mice fed normal levels of protein had more Lactobacillus bacteria than the mice given high protein.
“This study suggests that after a short period of dietary restriction — such as intermittent fasting or very low-calorie dieting attempts — a high-protein diet may prevent weight [regain] by increasing Lactobacillus gut bacteria, which [limits] intestinal lipid absorption,” said Tonia Vinton, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine specializing in obesity at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Medical News Today. She was not involved in the research.
Keta Pandit, MD, at Texas Diabetes and Endocrinology, who also did not work on the research, pointed out that humans behave differently than mice.
“Behaviors such as cravings, satiation, [and] hunger play a major role in [sustained] weight loss and in weight regain. When people pursue weight loss goals, they also increase exercise,” Pandit said. “That has not been factored in, [however] the type of exercise is also critical in a weight loss journey.”