Do high-protein diets work? Are they good for us?
Current research suggests that a diet higher in protein may be an effective way to lose weight, according to an article on this topic by registered dietitian Kaley Todd in Today’s Dietitian. Compared to lower-protein diets, a boost of protein can help a dieter preserve muscle mass and perhaps even control hunger.
Other research however, has shown that high-protein diets don’t result in long-term weight loss any better than other diets. Why the confusion? Probably because the definition of a high-protein diet is all over the map.
The most current Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to eat between 10 percent to 35 percent of our total calories from protein. More than that is technically “high-protein.”
Yet many of the research studies that found a beneficial effect of high-protein diets for weight loss defined a high-protein diet as one that was around 30 percent protein.
And here’s another important note from most of the research studies that found positive effects of high-protein diets: Besides the fact that these diets were high but not excessively high in protein, they were also not excessively high in fat. Most came in at around 30 percent of calories from the fat group — what experts consider to be low-fat.
It’s essential then, says Todd, to consider how the protein we eat is “packaged.” If our concept of a high-protein diet is all the sausage and gravy and everything else our poor heart doesn’t desire, we might be missing the point. High-protein diets that give free rein to as much fat as we can pile on and severely limit our intake of healthful carbs like fruit, yogurt and whole grains are another story entirely.
What in the heck does all this mean? For most people, a diet that provides protein on the higher end of the normal scale and cuts out unnecessary carbs, especially those that are high in sugar and fat (doughnuts, anyone?) can be a healthful way to lose weight … and keep it off. And we still need to make sure our bodies get all the essential nutrients they need for optimal function.
How to know if your diet falls in line with what’s considered healthful? Plug in a day’s worth of eating and drinking (be honest) at www.supertracker.usda.gov. Then run the Nutrient Report. You might be surprised.
Recent studies also suggest that — because we have different genetics — some of us may respond more favorable to high-protein diets than others. Best to remember what my grandfather told me: “Too much of anything is not good for us.”