In recent years, more and more research has demonstrated the benefits of higher protein diets. The growing body of literature is driving many to rethink the conventional nutrition dogma that has been prevalent for the past fifty years or so–a high carbohydrate, low fat, moderate protein diet is the best way to ward off disease and to promote good health.
A study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition adds to the protein story1. The study, a part of the larger DiOGenes project designed to investigate the potential of dietary protein to prevent weight gain in European subjects, looked at the impact of higher protein diets in children (ages 5-18) of overweight and obese parents2. It has been shown that children of obese parents are more than twice as likely as children of normal-weight parents to become obese, and to develop the co-morbidities associated with obesity.
In this study, families were randomized to 1 of 5 diets consisting of a combination of higher and lower protein foods, and higher and lower glycemic index foods. Diet, body composition, blood pressure, and various serum cardiovascular markers were measured in 253 children at baseline, and at one and six months following diet intervention. Among other things, children in the higher protein group demonstrated a smaller waist circumference and lower serum LDL cholesterol levels compared to the lower protein group at 6 months. In a separate analysis, high protein subjects had reduced waist circumference, and lower blood pressure and serum insulin than did subjects in the lower protein group. Taken together, these results suggest that increased protein intake may improve markers associated with body composition and cardiovascular disease risk in high-risk children.
This study was unique in that it is one of the first randomized control trials to demonstrate the benefits of higher protein diets in children of overweight/obese parents. Most prior studies of this nature have relied on epidemiological data. Research on the health impact of macronutrients undoubtedly will continue, but more and more it appears that there may be an alternate dietary approach to the high carbohydrate, low fat and protein paradigm.
1. Damsgaard CT, Papadaki A, Jensen SM, Ritz C, Dalskov SM, Hlavaty P, Saris WH, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Andersen MR, Stender S, Larsen TM, Astrup A, Mølgaard C, Michaelsen KF; Diogenes. Higher protein diets consumed ad libitum improve cardiovascular risk markers in children of overweight parents from eight European countries. J Nurt 2013;143(6):810-7.
2. Gögebakan O, Kohl A, Osterhoff MA, van Baak MA, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Hlavaty P, Weickert MO, Holst C, Saris WH, Astrup A,Pfeiffer AF; DiOGenes. Effects of weight loss and long-term weight maintenance with diets varying in protein and glycemic index on cardiovascular risk factors:the diet, obesity, and genes (DiOGenes) study: a randomized, controlled trial. Circulation 2011;124(25):2829-38.