Weight loss: A high-protein diet may prevent weight regain after dieting

Weight loss: A high-protein diet may prevent weight regain after dieting

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A recent study shows that high-protein diets may aid weight management by reducing levels of a gut bacterium linked to gut fat absorption. Melanie DeFazio/Stocksy
  • In a recent study, researchers investigated the causes of weight regain following weight loss from dieting.
  • Findings show that high-protein diets help promote weight management by reducing levels of a particular gut bacterium linked to gut fat absorption.
  • The researchers noted that reducing levels of specific gut bacteria via a high-protein diet or antibiotics could promote sustained weight loss after dietary restriction.

Obesity has multiple health effects, including increase cardiovascular risk and risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42% of adults in the United States age 20 and older are obese. What else, 73.6% of American adults in the same age group live either with obesity or overweight.

Losing weight is the main goal of obesity treatments. However, recent literature reviews report that after the initial weight loss, weight regain is typical.

Furthermore 2001 meta-analysis weight loss diets have shown that over 50% of weight loss is recovered in 2 years and over 80% of lost weight is recovered in 5 years.

Understanding how to prevent weight regain after dietary restriction could pave the way for better obesity treatment plans.

Recently, researchers studied the effects of diets with varying protein levels on fat levels in mice following dietary restriction.

Dr. Tonia Vinton, assistant professor of internal medicine specializing in obesity at UT Southwestern Medical Center, not involved in the study, said Medical News Today:

“This study suggests that after a short period of food restriction – such as intermittent fasting or very low-calorie diet attempts – a high-protein diet may prevent weight gain. [regain] increasing Lactobacillus intestinal bacteria, which [limits] absorption of intestinal lipids.

The study has just been published in Natural metabolism.

Previous research, like this 2018 studysuggests that certain diets may promote weight regain by altering the composition of gut bacteria.

For the current study, the researchers investigated how food restriction followed by unlimited food affected fat mass. They found that refeeding after food restriction led to rapid fat accumulation.

Further experiments, they noted that increases in fat levels occurred due to increased fat absorption in the intestines as opposed to increased food intake.

Next, the researchers analyzed mouse blood samples before, during, and after short-term dietary restriction to identify potential ways to maintain weight loss.

They found that certain amino acids in the blood increased during and after dietary restriction.

To understand how protein levels may influence post-diet fat absorption, the researchers fed mice a high-protein diet, a normal-protein diet, or a low-protein diet after short-term dietary restriction.

They found that high-protein diets were the most effective in preventing rapid weight regain and partially maintaining weight loss thereafter.

To understand how a high-protein diet reduces weight regain, researchers analyzed its effects on energy expenditure. Mice fed normal protein diets had higher energy expenditure than those fed a high-protein diet, indicating that the benefits of a high-protein diet came from elsewhere.

From further testing, they found that high-protein diets decreased intestinal fat absorption.

The researchers then analyzed fecal samples from mice fed high amounts of protein and normal amounts of protein after dietary restriction. They found that mice that ate a normal diet had higher levels of Lactobacillus bacteria than mice on a high-protein diet.

To see if Lactobacillus levels influenced weight regain Researchers treated mice with penicillin for a week before placing them on restrictive diets. They found that penicillin reduced Lactobacillus without affecting other bacteria and significantly reduces intestinal fat absorption thereafter.

The researchers concluded that targeting Lactobacillus after dietary restriction with a high-protein diet or antibiotics could prevent post-diet obesity.

Dr Vinton said the protein strategy used in the study might seem appealing to those who want to lose weight, but noted that data is still limited to support the approach.

Asked about the limitations of the study, John P. Thyfault, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, not involved in the study, said DTM:

“The role of reduced bile acids and the role of increased microbiota species Lactobacillus modifying the digestion and absorption of lipids are interesting but should be validated in humans. Additionally, using a probiotic to reverse Lactobacillus is an untargeted approach that could impact a host of other mechanisms.

Dr. Aleem Kanji, board-certified internist and endocrinologist at Ethos Endocrinology, Houston, TX, not involved in the study, also said DTM that the results could be even more limited because the mice studied were not models of obesity.

“Ideally, models of mice initially obese and subsequently undergoing dietary restriction and refeeding would be evaluated,” he noted.

Dr. Keta Pandit, board-certified endocrinologist and obesity medicine specialist at Texas Diabetes and Endocrinology, Austin, Texas, also not involved in the study, said DTM that the study does not take into account human behavior, which differs from that of mice.

“Behaviours such as cravings, satiety, [and] hunger plays a major role in [sustained] weight loss and weight regain. When people pursue weight loss goals, they also increase exercise,” Dr. Pandit noted.

“It was not taken into account, [however] the type of exercise is also essential in a weight loss journey.

To maintain weight after dieting, Dr. Kanji recommends patients consume adequate levels of protein. While not necessarily higher protein, he noted that it was a sufficient amount depending on a person’s body composition.

“Adequate protein intake helps preserve lean body mass during the active phase of weight loss. Preserving lean body mass promotes overall health and quality of life, especially as we age,” a said Dr. Kanji.

Krista Varady, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the study, noted five points for long-term weight maintenance:

  • eat less processed foods
  • eat more fruits and vegetables
  • walk at least 8,000 steps per day
  • know your calorie needs and track calories using food app
  • cook at home instead of eating out

Meanwhile, Dr. Pandit advised patients to approach obesity as a chronic disease rather than a temporary obstacle in life.

Lifestyle habits, such as increasing exercise levels and eating a well-balanced meal rich in protein and fiber, are key to maintaining weight loss, Dr. Pandit said.

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