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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 11/30/2010

Protein-rich, low-GI diet protects weight loss, study finds

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Weight management should, in theory, be a simple math problem: Balance calories consumed with calories burned, and your weight should remain steady. Shift that balance, and your weight should shift accordingly.

But a big body of research has grown around the notion that it's not just how much you eat but exactly what you eat that makes a difference in weight management. In that field, carbs and proteins, fiber and fat are all duking it out as scientists try to figure out just what perfect mix of nutrients is best, not just at whittling people's waists but also at keeping them whittled down for the long haul.

The latest salvo came late last week when the New England Journal of Medicine published a European study showing that folks who followed a diet in which higher-protein, lower-glycemic-index foods prevailed were better able to maintain their recent weight loss than those who ate less protein and higher-glycemic-value foods. And those who followed a low-protein, high-glycemic-index diet were more likely to regain their lost weight.


A meal full of lean protein such as orange chicken breasts with baby spinach can help with weight management. (Photo by Michael Temchine/For The Washington Post)

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how foods affect blood glucose levels; foods such as whole grains and beans, for instance, that have lower GI values cause smaller fluctuations in those levels, which in turn appears to help regulate your appetite. Foods with high GI values tend to cause big swings in blood sugars, which can contribute to less-controlled eating behaviors.

One problem, though, as this blog points out, is that people have a hard time figuring out which foods have low glycemic indices. And it's not always the case that lower-GI foods are better for you: A Snickers bar and a cup of brown rice have the same GI (55, which counts as "low").

But as this article notes, just as protein tends to help keep you feeling full longer than some other nutrients, so might low-GI foods. That might help explain why many fewer participants following the high-protein/low GI-diet than those following the other diet dropped out of the study: They might have found their diets more satisfying and easier to stick with.

Stepping back from the jargon, the study's findings comport with my own recent weight-loss experience. I've relied largely on lean proteins (hooray for chicken!) and on foods such as apples and black beans that turn out to have low glycemic values.

How about you? Do you, wittingly or unwittingly, follow a higher-protein, lower GI-diet? If not, does this latest research compel you to investigate such a diet?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | November 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Diabetes, Me Minus 10, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity, glycemic index  
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Comments

I tend toward a low GI diet but that is what my body does best with. Everyone works differently. I think most people could benefit from eating lower GI foods, but some need a larger percentage of protein and other less.

Posted by: honeybnutrition | November 30, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Since I've recently cut out sugar and flour from my diet and started eating a lot more veggies, soy and lean meat, I've been losing 1/2 to 1 pound a day. And the few times that I've cheated my weight loss immediately stopped, and only started up once I got back on my diet.

Posted by: tom_ryan | November 30, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

WOW - how coincidental that this column got published just a day after Weight Watchers rolled out their new PointsPlus Plan!! The old Weight Watchers' plan, also based on a points system, allowed more sugar and carbs then the new plan - although it did reward high-fiber foods. The new plan has far greater incentives to eat more fruit, vegetables and protein, and less carbs (and of course fat). Most fruits and veggies are now given a 0 points value, while processed foods' points values have gone way up. The daily points allotment has also gone up, but not enough to cover the amount of treats I had been previously been allowed on the old plan (a plan on which I lost 20 lbs. in 3.5 months - so it still worked!). Many Weight Watcher members are complaining bitterly about the new plan (both on the website AND on Facebook - myself included) :-) All new point calculations for all foods we consume must be made; we need to check four numbers now instead of two on nutrition labels, and our Vitalicious Muffin Tops, a Weight Watchers mainstay, have gone from 1 point to 3 points. So, just wanted to comment on how timely your column is today, given that the newly rolled out Weight Watchers program is quite similar to what you have written. Science marches on!!

Posted by: bevschneider | November 30, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Poor, Poor Carbs! They are getting ripped apart these days. It's not that carbs are bad, or make people gain weight. The secret is found mid-article above: fiber-filled foods (which are also low GI foods), release sugar into the blood stream slowly, which helps us to feel fuller, and satisfied for longer. Did you know, we can reduce the GI of a piece of bread, for instance, when we add a slice of turkey, chicken or peanut butter? Not to mention, those fruits, veggies, and beans are full of fiber and vitamins and low in calories. That's why they're great to add to the plate and they help us lose weight! It's not really the carbs that are doing it.. it's how we eat them, and how much of them we're eating.

Posted by: LuciFit | November 30, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Poor, Poor Carbs! They are getting ripped apart these days. It's not that carbs are bad, or make people gain weight. The secret is found mid-article above: " fiber-filled foods (which are also low GI foods), release sugar into the blood stream slowly, which helps us to feel fuller, and satisfied for longer". Did you know, we can reduce the GI of a piece of bread, for instance, when we add a slice of turkey, chicken or peanut butter? Not to mention, those fruits, veggies, and beans are full of fiber and vitamins and low in calories. That's why they're great to add to the plate and they help us lose weight! Don't forget, we need some carbohydrates to function; there's a reason why we have glucose in our blood. It's not really the carbs that are doing it.. it's how we eat them, and how much of them we're eating!

Posted by: LuciFit | November 30, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Phil should be suing W/W, for ripping off his eating plan from 2005, it's the way I've been eating since then, and kept off the 82 pounds also. Except I eat Omega 3's at each meal.

I dislike poor souls who call it "cheating" when they overeat, that is so "1950's". It's not a sin, for heaven's sakes!! And not illegal, not yet anyway, but there are those trying to make it illegal.

Posted by: kuchen | November 30, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

It's true! I felt my energy level improve right away. I was able to get off all the medications I was taking and my self-confidence went through the roof.All because of the weight I lost from "Hypersonic Weight Loss"! Give it a try

Posted by: anisalever | December 1, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Ever wonder about all the free stuff you see on the web? It appears like everybody wants to give stuff away for nothing, nada, zilch. But are these items truly free of charge? If so, how can these companies afford to give away all of these coupons and samples? It’s truly all about you, the consumer. We live in a very competitive world marketplace place. The internet has upped the ante in terms of who could be seen and heard via all with the mass media. Now companies need to make lots of noise and this is one way that can do it. One of the best place on the web is called "123 Get Samples" and get your free stuffs


Posted by: marypinnix | December 1, 2010 2:30 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: chuangjian2010 | December 6, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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