A low kilojoule diet made up of higher protein meals improves the ability to burn fat among overweight and obese people and may be the key to shedding excess kilos, according to new Australian research.
The study, in Nutrition & Dietetics published by Wiley-Blackwell, found higher protein meals may have a subtle fat-burning effect in overweight or obese people. And the study showed the glycaemic index (GI) of a meal has no additional effect on fat breakdown.
Study co-author Dr Marijka Batterman, an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, said: "We know from past research that overweight or obese people are not as efficient at burning fat. This new study shows that fat oxidation, or the body’s ability to ‘burn’ fat, improves in obese people when they eat a higher protein diet."
Study participants were put on two protein-enriched meals and one standard meal, which all contained the same number of kilojoules. The two protein-enriched meals differed in the type of carbohydrate they contained – either high- or low-GI. The amount of kilojoules subjects burnt was then measured.
The high-protein meals led to the greatest level of fat oxidation. This plan included a cheese and tomato omelette for breakfast, and a beef, chutney and salad sandwich, with a tub of low-fat yoghurt, for lunch.
"We found a clear relationship between body composition and the effect of dietary protein on fat oxidation. Our bodies burn energy and use fat differently, and we need to take this into account when planning our diets," said Dr Batterman who works at the Smart Foods Centre at the University of Wollongong.
Claire Hewat, Executive Director of the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), said all foods could fit into a healthy diet if eaten in the right amounts, and combined with regular physical activity.
"Forget the fad diets that are so fashionable these days. Instead, include lean protein from healthy foods like lean red meat, chicken and fish, legumes, eggs, nuts and reduced-fat dairy foods. People wanting individual advice on how much protein they need should see an Accredited Practising Dietitian," said Ms Hewat.
(Source: University of Wollongong: Nutrition & Dietetics: December 2008)