This always seems to be a key question for those of us who want to manage or lose weight, and the answers are all over the board. Certainly carbs and proteins have all had their day.
Protein with the Atkins, carbs with the Pritikin diet. Not sure that the “all fat diet” has been popular, though. Heck, even balance has had its day through Zone-type diets, but we all know that us here in the US don’t do well with “balance.”
So what is the answer? Better yet, is there one?
It is true that everyone is different. However, there are some constants that we can look at. But first, we need to review a few key hormones that regulate weight and appetite:
- Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a hormone I have covered frequently in the past. Basically, this hormone is an anti-diabetic hormone and can generally be considered helpful.
- Peptide YY (PYY) 3–36 is a hormone that suppresses appetite and slows gastric emptying, which will help to improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Glucagon is a hormone that runs opposite of insulin. Glucagon release causes the liver to release stored sugar to raise sugar levels in the bloodstream for energy.
- Ghrelin is a hormone that does many things, chief of which is to increase hunger.
- Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) is a hormone similar to GLP-1, but instead is believed to stimulate the release of insulin.
- Cholecystokinin is a hormone release by the small intestine that causes the gallbladder to release bile and the pancreas to release digestive enzymes.
Not that the physiology primer is over, we can get into the meat of this particular study. Researchers looked at three different diets; normal protein, medium protein (25% of energy from protein) and high protein diet (50% of energy from protein) to see how the body responded. Here’s what they found:
- The high protein diet led to higher levels of GLP-1 (20% higher) , peptide YY (14%), and glucagon (116% higher) greater responses than the normal protein diet.
- The high protein diet increased insulin and cholecystokinin levels over the normal protein diet.
- The high protein diet decreased ghrelin and GIP levels.
- Satiety was 16% greater and fullness was 19% higher.
- Hunger decreased 26% in the high protein diet.
It is clear that protein was a strong winner for controlling appetite and improving the body’s response to a meal. Here’s the important part…
It is also abundantly clear that a high animal-based diet is NOT good for us and promotes pretty much every chronic disease you can think of. The bottom line is, if you like the idea of a high protein diet such as the one in this study (50% of calories), you’d better be getting most of this protein from plant sources. These can include:
- Nuts and seeds (like hemp, flax)
- Soy (tofu, miso, edamame, tempeh)
- Beans / hummus / lentils / peanuts or peanut butter
- Whole grains like quinoa and salvia
Adding these plant based proteins to your diet in higher levels may be the key you need to curb your hunger and maintain or achieve an ideal body composition.