The results of the study have been published in the journal Obesity.
An analysis of pooled data from several Rutgers weight loss trials shows that increasing the amount of protein, even slightly, from 18% of a person’s dietary intake to 20%, has a substantial impact on the quality of food choices made by the person. The study was published in the medical journal Obesity. “It is somewhat remarkable that a slightly higher self-selected protein intake while dieting is associated with higher consumption of green vegetables and reduced consumption of refined grains and added sugar,” said Sue Shapses, author of the study and professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS). “But that’s precisely what we found.”
The data was collected from more than 200 men and women participating in clinical trials at Rutgers funded by the National Institutes of Health over the past two decades. Analysis of food records and diet quality for this study was funded by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutritional Sciences in Washington, D.C. Participants ranged in age from 24 to 75 years and recorded a body mass index that classified them as overweight or obese. All participants were encouraged to lose weight on a 500-calorie deficit diet and met regularly for nutritional counseling and support over a six-month period.
Participants received nutritional counseling based on guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Diabetes Association. They were encouraged to allocate 18% of their calorie intake to lean proteins, such as poultry, unprocessed red meat, fish, legumes and dairy products, and to spend the rest of their calories on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They were discouraged from ingesting saturated fats, refined grains, sugar and salt.
Participants kept detailed dietary records, which the researchers analyzed for diet quality, specific categories of foods eaten, and specific protein ratios and sources. Participants who self-chosen their protein intake were then characterized by the researchers into a low-protein approach with 18 overall calories from protein or a higher-protein approach with 20% of intake overall food from protein.
The study concludes: Both the low- and high-protein groups lost the same amount of weight — about five percent of their body weight over six months. Individuals in the high-protein groups chose a mixture of healthier foods to eat overall. Individuals in the high-protein group specifically increased their intake of green vegetables and reduced their intake of sugar and refined grains. Individuals in the high-protein group were better able to retain lean muscle mass.
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