Nutrition Articles

To Feel Fuller, Fill Up on Protein

Nutrition News Flash

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A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested 19 subjects on three different diets. Researchers measured appetite, caloric intake, body weight, and fat mass, as well as blood measurements for insulin, leptin (the hormone responsible for satiety) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone) during each of the phases.

First, subjects followed a weight-maintenance diet of 15% protein, 35% fat, and 50% carbohydrate for two weeks.

Next, the subjects ate the same number of calories (an "isocaloric" diet), but with a different nutrient breakdown (30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate) for two weeks. This diet resulted in markedly increased satiety, although leptin levels did not change.

Finally, subjects followed an "ad libitum" diet (no caloric requirement or restriction), but were required to meet a specific nutrient breakdown of 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate for 12 weeks. In this phase, participants spontaneously ate 376-504 fewer calories per day, and decreased both body weight and body fat. However, leptin levels decreased and ghrelin levels increased.

The researchers concluded that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories, with a constant carbohydrate intake, may be beneficial to weight loss.

Action Sparked
This 30% protein, 50% carbohydrate diet fits into the healthy distribution range set by the Food and Nutrition Board, the Institute of Medicine, and National Academy of Sciences. It appears to benefit those trying to lose weight and body fat. The trouble is that many sources of protein are also high in fat. For healthy protein sources, select low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt), egg whites or egg substitutes. To enjoy lean meats, trim off excess fat and remove skin. Select cooking methods that limit fat such as grilling, baking or broiling. Many plant proteins, such as tofu, beans, legumes and other soy products are naturally low in fat as well.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • FOXGLOVE999
    I would have a hard time eating that much protein, or that little fat. - 9/15/2014 9:37:37 AM
  • I've known that for sometime. that's why my doctors have me on low carb food plan.
    When i first started Spark, i chose their meal plans. OMG, too many carbs. I used it for a few weeks, gained lbs. I still listed the foods, but didn't eat the carbs, added more protein. I lost weight and had way more energy.
    That lead me to create my own meals. it took longer to set up, but soon i created groups and that way tracking is much easier.
    Not everyone processes carbs the same, that also enters into how we lose weight. - 4/1/2014 10:47:52 AM
  • 50% carbs is absolute hogwash, and so is the demonization of fat (saturated fats in particular, as consumption of saturated fats is the most effective lifestyle intervention for raising HDL cholesterol, which is CVD protective). I totally agree with the previous comment that carb intakes at that level are a recipe for obesity, as well as Type 2 diabetes.

    The author is "toeing the party line". Do a little research into who is funding these multiple associations and researchers she lists at the bottom of the article (I can guarantee the agricultural lobbies have a significant hand in this, as well as the pharmaceutical industry).

    YouTube has a great documentary called "My Big Fat Diet", shows the results the people in a very overweight and diabetic community achieved by increasing their fat intake and reducing their carbs. Many were able to reduce if not discontinue their medications in a very short period fo time. - 11/14/2013 12:02:37 PM
  • This is confirmation ...thanks - 11/14/2013 4:48:40 AM
  • Exactly! That's what I've been doing since 2006. More protein (which translates into less carbs) is the foundation of all low carb diets.

    When I started higher protein, I went overboard on protein for a few days, then I started to eat less and less, I just didn't want more food...how easy is that? - 8/5/2013 7:55:21 AM
  • 50% carbs is a recipe for obesity - 5/29/2013 7:47:36 PM
  • I forgot to add full fat organic diary (raw when I can get it) to what I eat to stay healthy. And lots of organic veggies of course, but very little fruit. - 5/29/2013 9:39:57 AM
  • High fat, medium protein and low carb keeps me slim and healthy. By high fat I mean at least 50% from avocado, coconut & olive oils, nuts, organic lard and fat from pastured animals. No sugar, wheat or corn! - 5/29/2013 9:28:54 AM
  • Interesting study findings, but not really a very good research project design if the goal was to find the optimal balance of macro-nutrients. That would require trying various ratios of all three, not just protein and fat - so really potentially misleading. For the last year, I have been eating with a much lower carb ratio - around 20-30%, fat at around 50% and protein (mostly animal) at around 20 - 30%. I have lost 60+ pounds, have way more energy, sleep better and am generally healthier - I know that is an n=1 situation - just saying, based on the article, that presumably accurately reflects the research, it didn't tell us anything useful and may have been harmful if people take-away that the proof of the research is we need to consume 50% of our diets in carbs - that was not the finding. - 5/29/2013 8:18:46 AM
  • Why this constant obsession with just eating egg whites?
    OK I realise that the yolks contain more calories than the whites, but even then the average egg only contains about 70-80 calories - and what a fantastic source of all things good, not just protein but a host of other nutrients your body needs.

    I just think eating only egg whites and discarding the yolks is a criminal waste of good food.

    - 5/29/2013 6:38:18 AM
  • Nutritional Action, a not for profit newslettter than has no advertizing had an article about protein. Their specifics were that older people were able to avoid the sacropenia of age by consuming 30 grams of protein in one sitting.

    They also mentioned that this was difficult to do, but that adding 5gs of the branched chain amino acid leucine during a meal containing less than 30 grams of protein, had the same effect on older individuals.

    Something to think about if you are trying to get your protein on a restricted calorie diet.

    : )
    Mzzchief - 5/24/2013 3:05:52 PM
  • REFERENCEGIRL73
    This is so true. I consistently eat just a little bit more protein then recommended but stay within my recommended calorie range and I have experienced very little actual hunger so far. 19 lbs down, 30 lbs to go. - 5/24/2013 12:07:24 PM
  • This is interesting-- I wish that the article and discussion of the protein/fat/carb breakdown had included a sample menu/info about how study participants were monitored to reach those percentages. Without that, this article is interesting but not particularly useful to readers. - 5/24/2013 10:35:11 AM
  • I eat high protein everyday. Low on carbs. - 5/24/2013 9:29:50 AM
  • NICKISAVAGE
    My doctor makes me eat 50% fat, 30% protein and 20% carbs. Ick. Turns out my resting metabolic rate is abnormally high (around 3400 calories a day!) and isn't supposed to be, but they can't figure out why. It's not my thyroid...and every test just makes them scratch their heads even more. - 5/22/2013 11:13:34 PM

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