Study gives scientific weight to high-protein diet
New research suggests that high-protein foods may be better at curbing a key “hunger hormone” than either fats or carbohydrates.
In a study of 16 healthy adults, researchers found that a high-protein drink was more effective than either a high-fat or high-carb drink at suppressing an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin.
All three beverages caused blood levels of ghrelin to dip, but the fatty drink was least effective. The high-carb drink, by comparison, was most effective at curbing the hormone in the first three hours after the “meal,” but over the next three hours ghrelin levels shot back up to levels that were higher than before the test meal.
In the end, the protein drink was most effective at subduing ghrelin over the entire six hours, the researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The findings point to a possible biological reason that high-protein diets help some people shed pounds. Based on these ghrelin effects, a high-protein/low-carb regimen may help delay the inevitable “hunger rebound” that follows every meal, according to the researchers.
The results are not, however, an endorsement of high-protein diets, lead researcher Dr. Karen Foster-Schubert, of the University of Washington in Seattle, told Reuters Health.
She explained that she and her colleagues were interested in studying the short-term effects of different macronutrients—protein, fat and carbohydrates—on appetite-regulating hormones.
Since it was not a weight-loss study, the findings do not show whether a high-protein/low-carb diet is the best way to cut pounds.
Nonetheless, Foster-Schubert noted, the results do support further research into whether popular high-protein diets do suppress ghrelin well, and subsequently spur weight loss.
Solid foods may have a different impact on ghrelin than the beverages used in this study, according to Foster-Schubert. However, she said, it’s likely that the relative effects of protein versus carbohydrates and fats are similar.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, online January 17, 2008.
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