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October 25, 2011

Low Protein Diet Leads to No Satisfaction

Satisfied woman and low protein dietWhen it comes to eating, if you want your appetite to be satisfied be sure to consume enough protein with each of your meals and snacks.  The low protein diet has become more popular over the years as carbs have been emphasized.  But, protein is essential to normal physiologic function of the body.

Protein is necessary to build sex hormones and the neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Protein builds antibodies to fight infection, builds muscle, and make enzymes that catalyze the many biochemical reactions of the body. The low protein diet hampers these necessary functions.

The Ill Effects of a Low Protein Diet

A study from the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Molecular Bioscience, and the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, and Exercise at the University of Sydney in Australia found that people who consumed only 10% of their calories from protein were more likely to snack between meals and consume significantly more calories compared to people who consumed 15% of their calories from protein.

In fact, those whose diets were limited to 10% protein consumed 12% more calories with 70% of those additional calories coming from snacking. This suggests that protein plays a role in satiety or the sense of fullness with eating.

Drs. Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer, two of the study’s authors, had previously proposed a “protein-leverage” hypothesis that states that animals have a fixed protein target that they attempt to achieve at the expense of other nutrients. The appetite for protein seems to dominate over that for fat and carbohydrates.  And, if the protein in the meal is not adequate people will continue to eat until their individual protein target is reached. Basically we keep eating until we meet our protein requirement.

The researchers also looked at the effects of consuming a 25% protein diet but did not find any additional benefit over the 15% protein diet.  Dr. Alison Gosby, another author of the study, stated that “counting calories is not enough to manage appetitite and body weight.  In the western world where food is abundant, if you reduce your calorie intake but fail to reach your protein target you will find it hard to resist hunger pangs.”   Bodybuilders have know this for a long time.

So this study suggests that a low protein diet will lead to overeating, and a diet diluted by fats and carbohydrates is likely to be playing a role in the obesity epidemic we are now witnessing.

Our Protein Recommendations

We generally recommend that individuals consume 0.6 to  1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.  Individuals engaged in heavy weight lifting should consume more.  Assuming 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks throughout the day for most men this will mean eating about 30 grams of protein per meal/snack and for women 25 grams per meal/snack.  Protein contributes to satiety and if you are hungry before your next scheduled meal or snack you probably did not consume enough protein the previous meal/snack.

Avoid the low protein diet.

See related articles.

“Too Early for the Next Meal?” Try These Healthy Snacks”

“Low Glycemic Foods”

“Human Growth Hormone Diet”





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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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