Restricting protein diet can help regulate obesity and diabetes, finds study

A study has found that reducing consumption of protein can help regulate metabolic syndrome and some of its symptoms such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Metabolic syndrome is known to be a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, including hypertension, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol.

According to Rafael Ferraz-Bannitz, first author of the article published in Journal Nutrients, “The study showed that cutting protein intake to 0.8 g per kg of body weight was sufficient to achieve almost the same clinical results as restricting calories, but without the need to reduce calorie intake.”

The postdoctoral researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Centre in Harvard Medical School, US, said that protein restriction can be an easier strategy to follow for those who struggle with metabolic syndrome.

“The results suggest that protein restriction may be one of the key factors leading to the known benefits of dietary restriction. Protein restriction dieting may therefore be a more attractive nutritional strategy and easier to follow for people with metabolic syndrome,” Dr Rafael said.

The study was conducted on 21 participants with metabolic syndrome for 27 days, during which their dietary restrictions were monitored. The daily calorie intake of each participant was calculated.

One group of the participants were fed what the researchers call, a standard Western diet (50percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein and 30 percent fat) but with 25 percent fewer calories.

The second group of the participants were fed a diet in which protein intake was reduced to 10 percent. Calorie intake was tailored to each participant’s baseline energy expenditure. However, the two groups consumed 4 grams of salt per day.

The results showed that both the calorie and protein deficit diet lost weight. (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The results showed that both the calorie and protein deficit diet lost weight due to loss of body fat and the symptoms of metabolic syndrome improved. Decrease in body fat is often associated with reduced blood sugar and normal levels of lipids and blood pressure.

“After 27 days of monitoring, both groups had similar results in terms of lower blood sugar, weight loss, controlled blood pressure, and lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Both diets improved insulin sensitivity after treatment. Body fat decreased, as did waist and hip circumference, but without loss of muscle mass,” said Maria Cristina Foss de Freitas, one of the authors of the article and a professor at FMRP-USP.

The study showed that manipulation of dietary macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fat – according to a person’s needs is enough to obtain beneficial effects of dietary restriction.

“We demonstrated that protein restriction reduces body fat while maintaining muscle mass. That’s important since the weight loss resulting from restrictive diets is often associated with loss of muscle mass,” Ferraz-Bannitz said.

Although the study showed significant results, the researchers pointed out that each diet involved was personalised.

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