Protein diets, hormones and weight loss

January 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Diets

Despite much of the adverse publicity the Atkins’ Diet has received over the last year, for many people the proof is in the pudding – or in this case lack of it. One thing about Atkins that people consistently say is that they definitely lose weight and now there may be some scientific proof of why that is the case.

Atkins is based on a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet and now a study at the University of Washington, reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, explains why protein is so effective for weight loss.

It seems that proteins are better at suppressing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin than carbohydrates and lipids, and this means you feel more satisfied with less food. Ghrelin is thought to influence hunger around mealtime, the researchers said, because levels increase before meals and are suppressed once you start eating. The study also showed that although carbohydrate intake also initially suppressed ghrelin levels, it did not last and ghrelin levels quickly returned to above their baseline values.

This bears out what many Atkins fans claim, that they get hungrier quicker if they switch to more carbohydrate than protein in their diets. However, whatever diet you follow please ensure it contains all the essential nutrients and if in doubt check with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

Heart attack risk linked to bodys fat distribution

The link between heart attack risk and being overweight is well-established, but now it seems that it is not so much how much extra weight you are carrying, but where it is on the body that increases the risk factor. Two studies, one in the US at the Medical College of Wisconsin and another at Tel-Aviv University in Israel indicate if extra weight is all carried on the stomach and abdomen then you need to take action. In the two separate studies 20,000 subjects had their body mass index (BMI) compared to their waist measurement in relation to cardiovascular disease risk factors. The bigger the waist, the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high glucose levels were found to be significantly stronger than the link between those same factors and BMI.

The leader of the Israeli study, Dr David Tanne, pointed out that excessive abdominal fat also raises the risk of other factors associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes. Their research also found that during a 23-year follow up period that those subjects with excessive abdominal fat were one and a half times more likely to suffer a stroke compared to subjects with the lowest abdominal fat.

What can you do?
Whether you can’t see your feet when looking down, or are just a little soft around the waist, it pays to take preventive action. Heart disease and stroke risk are not to be taken lightly and although regular exercise is certainly essential there is another factor that might help.

Canadian researchers reported in a study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition that having a higher intake of protein might help. Like the other researchers they were also measuring their subjects to assess waist-hip ratio (WHR). The result was that those with the highest waist-hip ratio, indicating excessive abdominal fat, were found to have the lowest intake of protein.

Why would protein have this effect?
A fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) might provide the answer. CLA is most abundant in protein-rich dietary sources such as meat and dairy products. It’s also available in supplement form, and studies have shown that CLA supplements may help reduce body fat mass, but as always take the simplest route first and look at your diet before taking supplements, and then only on the advice of your doctor.