Too Little Protein Leads to Overeating
Though most doctors and nutritionists agree the Atkins diet's extreme limitation on carbs is an unsustainable model for weight loss, a new study out this week does confirm the power of protein in our diets.
“Humans have a particularly strong appetite for protein, and when the proportion of protein in the diet is low this appetite can drive excess energy intake,” explained study author, Alison Gosby, PhD.
Gosby’s “protein leverage” theory proposes that the less protein a person eats (in comparison to fat and carbohydrates), the more calories they will need to eat to satisfy their hunger.
To test this theory, study participants received three daily meals at either 10%, 15% or 25% calories from protein, with fat content being held at a steady 30% and carbohydrates making up the difference. They were allowed to eat as much outside these meals as they wanted, while recording that additional intake.
In the end, the group receiving just 10% of their calories from protein took in significantly more calories than those participant s that received just 5% more and 15% calories from protein.
Said study authors, “This may reflect habitual preferences, or may be an indication of participants seeking protein due to associating savory sensory qualities with protein…(However) even when the macronutrient composition of foods was disguised and the variety controlled, increased energy intake occurred on diets containing a lower proportion of energy from protein…. Our findings have considerable implications for body weight management in the current nutritional environment, where foods rich in fat and carbohydrates are cheap, palatable, and available to an extent unprecedented in our history.”