ROCKVILLE, Md. — For some people trying to lose weight, the best solution is to completely forget how they normally eat and try something new. Total diet replacements are a popular option for helping people eat just what they need to stay fit. Researchers at the University of Alberta say there’s a way to make these diets even better. Their study reveals switching out a typical North American diet for a high-protein total replacement diet give users an immediate energy boost and burns fat easier.
The World Health Organization reports that worldwide obesity rates have tripled since 1975. Health officials classified nearly two billion people as overweight in 2016. The extra weight isn’t the only problem, as obesity can lead to patients developing serious complications like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Total diet replacements take a person’s normal menu of meals and substitutes them with options that follow a careful formula so they’re nutritionally complete. At the same time, researchers say high-protein diets are showing promising results in sparking weight loss and increasing fat-free mass. The team set out to see if combining the two produces a healthy result in dieters.
“Considering the prevalence of obesity worldwide and its impact on health, it’s not surprising nutritional strategies such as total diet replacements and high-protein diets are becoming increasingly popular as weight management strategies; however, research around these topics has not kept pace with their growth in popularity,” explains lead author and doctoral student Camila Oliveira in a media release.
Counting calories doesn’t give dieters the whole picture
The study examined a group of 43 healthy-weight individuals separated into two groups. One would switch to a high-protein total replacement diet while the other served as a control. The high-protein replacement provided the participants with a balance of 35 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent protein, and 25 percent fat. The control group ate a diet typically seen in North America, containing 55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, and just 15 percent protein. Despite the differences, each volunteer consumed the same number of calories throughout the study.
After spending 32 hours in a metabolic chamber, the results reveal high-protein replacement diets create “higher energy expenditure, increased fat oxidation, and negative fat balance.”
While the portions may have been the same, researchers argue that not all calories are the same. They add that diets containing more protein can increase the amount of fat a person burns compared to calories composed of fat and carbs.
“Although these results are restricted to a specific population of healthy, normal-weight adults, they can help nutrition scientists and healthcare providers better understand the real physiological effects of a high-protein total diet replacement in humans,” Dr. Carla Prado, the study’s principal investigator adds.
“In our opinion, it is imperative to first understand the physiological impact of a high-protein total diet replacement in a healthy population group so that the effects are better translated in individuals with obesity and its related comorbidities.”
The study appears in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.