High-protein Weight-loss Diets: Are They Safe and Do They Work? A Review of the Experimental and Epidemiologic Data

Authors

  • Julie Eisenstein M.D.,

    1. Drs. Eisenstein, Roberts, Dallal, and Saltzman are with the Energy Metabolism Lab, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA
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  • Susan B. Roberts Ph.D.,

    1. Drs. Eisenstein, Roberts, Dallal, and Saltzman are with the Energy Metabolism Lab, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA
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  • Gerard Dallal Ph.D.,

    1. Drs. Eisenstein, Roberts, Dallal, and Saltzman are with the Energy Metabolism Lab, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA
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  • Edward Saltzman M.D.

    1. Drs. Eisenstein, Roberts, Dallal, and Saltzman are with the Energy Metabolism Lab, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA
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Abstract

Recommendations for increased consumption of protein are among the most common approaches of popular or fad diets. This review summarizes the effects of dietary protein on satiety, energy intake, thermogenesis, and weight loss, as well as its effect on a variety of health outcomes in adults. In short-term studies, dietary protein modulates energy intake via the sensation of satiety and increases total energy expenditure by increasing the thermic effect of feeding. Whereas these effects did not contribute to weight and fat loss in those studies in which energy intake was fixed, one ad libitum study does suggest that a high-protein diet results in a greater decrease in energy intake, and therefore greater weight and fat loss. In terms of safety, there is little long-term information on the health effects of high-protein diets. From the available data, however, it is evident that the consumption of protein greater than two to three times the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance contributes to urinary calcium loss and may, in the long term, predispose to bone loss. Caution with these diets is recommended in those individuals who may be predisposed to nephrolithiasis or kidney disease, and particularly in those with diabetes mellitus.

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