Researchers set out to look at patterns of food intake or physical activity that might help people avoid an increase in hunger after losing weight through dietary changes. This increase in hunger after losing weight, they noted, is a commonly reported barrier to keeping weight off in people who lose weight primarily by changing what they eat. Since protein and fiber are two components of food that have been shown in previous research to help people feel full for longer periods of time, they designed the study to look at the combined effect of increased protein and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index in people’s diet. The glycemic index is a measure of how carbohydrate from food raises blood glucose levels, based on a standardized amount of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-containing foods that are also high in soluble fiber — fiber that dissolves in water — tend to have a lower glycemic index.
The latest analysis looked at data from a study on weight-loss maintenance, in which 2,223 participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups after following a low-calorie diet for eight weeks. During this follow-up phase lasting 148 weeks (for a total of three years), participants followed either a high-protein, low-glycemic-index diet or a moderate-protein, moderate-glycemic-index diet, and either a high-intensity exercise routine or a low-intensity exercise routine. Body weight — along with self-reported hunger, satiety, desire to eat, and desire to eat something sweet over the previous week — were assessed at the beginning of the study, after eight weeks of a low-calorie diet, and then six months, one year, two years, and three years after the start of the study.
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High-protein, low-glycemic-index diet linked to reduced hunger
The researchers found no significant interaction between diet and physical activity when it came to the effect on body weight or answers to appetite-related questions. What’s more, there were no significant differences between the two physical activity groups when it came to the effect on appetite. But participants who followed the high-protein, low-glycemic-index diet reported greater reductions in hunger from one year onward. This was also the case specifically in the high-intensity exercise group — meaning that among participants who followed an intensive exercise routine, those who also followed a high-protein, low-glycemic-index diet were more likely to report lower levels of hunger over the previous week. However, these lower levels of hunger didn’t lead to greater weight-loss maintenance — there was no difference in how much weight participants regained between the two diet groups.
The researchers concluded that following a high-protein, low-glycemic-index diet may help reduce hunger in people who have lost weight, but this lower level of hunger doesn’t seem to translate into better weight-loss maintenance. More research is needed to examine why this reduction in appetite apparently doesn’t help people maintain weight loss, as well as the role exercise intensity may play in both appetite and weight loss maintenance.
Want to learn more about incorporating additional protein into your diet? Read “Easy Ways to Boost Your Protein Intake.”
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