Australian researchers conducted a small study and found that higher-protein meals might help overweight and obese people burn more fat.
Overweight people are generally less efficient at burning fat after a meal than thinner people are. The researchers wanted to check whether the protein composition of a meal would affect that weight-related gap. They found that overweight men and women burned more post-meal fat when they ate a high-protein meals than when they ate lower-protein meals. It seems that the added protein modifies the fat-burning deficit seen in heavy individuals.

The research results suggest that people with higher body fat burn fat better after a high-protein meal than people with lower levels of body fat.
Previous studies have shown that high-protein diets help people shed weight more easily — possibly because protein suppresses appetite better than fat or carbohydrates do.

However, the latest study did not look at weight loss, so it's not possible to tell whether the increased fat-burning seen in overweight participants would translate into fewer pounds over time. That is the first next step, researchers report.

The study was based on 18 adults whose post-meal metabolism was tested on 3 separate days. The average age was 40 years, eight subjects were overweight, six subjects had a normal weight, and four were obese.
On day one, they were given a "control" breakfast and lunch composed of 58 percent carbohydrates and 14 percent protein. On the other 2 days, their meals were more balanced, with about one third of calories coming from protein and another third from carbohydrates. In the 8 hours after the control meal, the investigators found that overweight and obese participants burned less fat than their thinner counterparts did. But that gap was closed when participants ate the higher-protein meals.

The protein-rich meals consisted of low-fat dairy, lean meat and eggs, along with bread and vegetables as carbohydrate sources. The researchers are now investigating whether vegetarian sources of protein would have similar effects on overweight adults' fat metabolism.

The researchers say that people looking to bulk up the protein in their diets should choose their sources carefully, switching bacon and butter for foods like fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, beans and nuts.