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Too much emphasis has been laid on the source of food that one consumes, while trying to lose weight. However, according to latest research, it is the number of calories that one consumes, irrespective of the source, which determines the excess fat piled.

Volume of Calories Ingested is more important than Their Source

Until now, people watching their weight used to pay a lot of attention on the type of food they were consuming. A diet rich in protein was associated with increased weight gain and therefore avoided. However, researchers have now found that volume of calories consumed is more important than their source. People, who consume a diet low in protein but rich in total number of calories, end up piling on unhealthy fat.

The new research, which has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was led by Dr. George Bray from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana. The study was carried on 25 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35 with an average body mass index of 19 to 30. All the participants were fed a weight stabilizing diet for 13 to 25 days. Thereafter, they were randomly divided into 3 groups. Participants in each of the groups were overfed a diet, containing proteins which constituted 5%, 15% and 25% of the total energy intake respectively, for 8 weeks.

The protein diets provided extra 954 kcal per day. The participants were watched closely for the entire period of the study, during which their body composition, resting energy expenditure and total energy expenditure were measured using sophisticated techniques. The researchers evaluated the effects of consuming excess amounts of low, normal and high protein diet.

Extra Calories lead to Increase in Fat, Proteins lead to Increase in Muscle Mass

In the abovementioned study, the researchers found that overfeeding led to an increase in fat deposition in all three groups. However, the weight gained was significantly less in the group which consumed a low protein diet. A normal to high protein diet led to an increase in resting energy expenditure as well as an increase in the lean body mass.

Although the weight gained by participants who consumed low protein diet was less, it was because they lost body proteins or their muscle mass. Losing body proteins is not a healthy way of losing weight. This is because the extra calories consumed through a diet low in protein are stored in the form of fat.

While consuming extra calories leads to an increase in weight, a high protein diet leads to an increase in muscle mass whereas a protein low diet leads to an increase in fat. Therefore, the researchers have concluded that people who are trying to lose weight should cut down on their total calorie intake rather than cutting down on the protein component in their diet.

Obesity epidemic has hit the entire world and for the first time in human history, the obese population has surpassed the population of underweight individuals. It is important to take steps to counter this epidemic immediately, otherwise the number of obese people worldwide is said to double in the next thirty years. The findings of the study become very important in the fight against fat.

  • “Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition during Overeating- a Randomized Controlled Trial”, by George A. Bray, et al. Published in January 2012 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association. Accessed on January 13, 2012. Retrieved from:
  • “Calories, not protein, matter most for fat gain”, by Genevra Pittman. Published in January 4, 2011issue of Reuters Health, accessed on January 13, 2012. Retrieved from
  • Photo courtesy of rmgimages on Flickr: