Eating protein during dieting could prevent muscle loss

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Scientists from Rutgers University found that eating a larger proportion of protein while dieting leads to better food choices and helps avoid the loss of muscle mass.

The research is published in the medical journal Obesity and was conducted by Sue Shapses et al.

In the study, the team analyzed data from multiple weight-loss trials.

The data was collected from more than 200 men and women over the past two decades.

Participants were between the ages of 24 and 75 and registered a body mass index that categorized them as either overweight or obese.

All participants were encouraged to lose weight by following a 500-calorie-deficit diet, and met regularly for nutrition counseling and support over a six-month period.

They were encouraged to allot 18 percent of their caloric intake to lean protein, such as poultry, unprocessed red meat, fish, legumes, and dairy, and to expend the balance of their calories on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

They were discouraged from ingesting saturated fats, refined grains, sugar, and salt.

They found that increasing the amount of protein even slightly, from 18 percent of a person’s food intake to 20 percent, has a big impact on the quality of the food choices made by the person.

In addition, the researchers found a moderately higher intake of protein provided another benefit to the dieters: a reduced loss of lean body mass often associated with weight loss.

Higher-protein group individuals were better able to retain their lean muscle mass.

The team says weight-loss regimens that employ calorie restrictions can often spur dieters to reduce the intake of healthy foods that contain micronutrients such as iron and zinc.

Ingesting higher levels of proteins is often linked to healthier outcomes, but the link between protein intake and diet quality is poorly understood.

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