Let’s face it, most people trying to lose weight have tried a diet that told them to limit a certain kind of food, such as breads and grains, or increase their intake of another type, such as meats or veggies. Many different diets follow this method and believe that certain types of food make you gain or lose weight more than others. But do diets like this really work and are they good for overall health?

High protein diets have become a popular trend in the weight loss world as a “new” plan for losing weight, but they have been around in different variations since the ‘60s. Typically they allow a variety of high protein foods but restrict carbohydrate rich foods such as grain, fruits, and veggies. The popular thought process behind these diets are that excess carbohydrate consumption causes elevated insulin to be released which causes the body to store fat. With a high protein to carbohydrate ratio, they feel that this diet will promote metabolic changes that reduce insulin levels and thus lower fat storage.

Are they right in their thinking?

No! Even though most people don’t know it, protein consumption also increases insulin secretion. This excess insulin secretion, that they wish to correct using a high protein diet, is regulated by many factors and is caused by obesity and a lack of physical activity. This is primarily improved through reducing the amount of calories you consume, increasing physical activity, and losing weight.

So why does it seem to work?

The main mechanism that these diets swear by is a state called metabolic ketosis. It arises when a low storage of glucose makes the body burn fats for energy, since the body doesn’t like to use protein for energy, and release fatty acids into the blood circulations, causing them to be converted into ketones. These ketones naturally build up in the blood when the body is starving. Although the creators of these high protein diets think that ketosis goes hand in hand with weight loss, it really only means that the body is making less insulin.

Are there any issues with these diets?

Most of the diets follow a similar protocol of having a very high percentage of the calories coming from proteins and fats and hardly any from carbohydrates. In most cases this restriction of carbohydrates keeps individuals from consuming healthy foods such as fruits and whole grains that are vital for adequate nutrient and mineral uptake. The high protein diets also are characterized with having strict calorie restrictions, some so low that it impedes fat loss and puts your health at risk.

What is the main result of these diets?

Individuals who follow this diet properly do lose somewhat more weight in the short term, but usually gain most of it back once they return to a normal diet that isn’t high in protein. Another problem with the diet is that it is harder to adhere to than a balanced diet with a similar amount of calories consumed.

What is the takeaway message?

 The positive effects on insulin resistance and fat burning are more likely due to losing weight, not to having a high protein diet. Also, this type of diet restricts healthy foods which give your body nutrients to function properly. This lack of variety makes this sort of diet very difficult to adhere to. Finally, the weight loss that occurs is short term, unlike diets that are low in fat.

 *A low fat diet will allow you to consume the appropriate nutrients and will promote long term weight loss, especially when you accompany it with physical activity.*


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