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Relationship between Consumption of Protein, Carbs and Long-Term Weight Gain

Significant interactions between changes in different protein foods, carbohydrate, and glycemic load and weight changes were observed in a new study…

Dietary guidelines recommend interchanging protein foods; however, carbohydrate-rich foods can also be used. Not many studies have been conducted to analyze the effects of these exchanges and their influences on weight gain. Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine the influences of protein and glycemic load (GL) intake on long-term weight gain.

The study included 3 prospective US cohorts (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study) with a total of 120,784 men and women without diagnosis of chronic disease or obesity at baseline. The association between their 4-y changes in protein food and GL intake and 4-y weight change was analyzed over a 16 to 24-y follow-up. Multiple factors were adjusted for confounding, including lifestyle changes such as smoking, physical activity, television watching, sleep duration, and body mass index (BMI).

Protein foods were interchanged with carbohydrate (negative correlation -0.39) and not interchanged with each other (intercorrelations < |0.05|). The study showed positive associations between long-term weight gain and protein foods such as meats, chicken with skin, and regular cheese (per increased serving/d, 0.13-1.17 kg, p=0.02 to p0.40 for each). Weight loss was observed in diet with yogurt, peanut butter, walnuts, other nuts, chicken without skin, low-fat cheese, and seafood (-0.14 to -0.71 kg, p=0.01 to p<0.001). A 0.42 kg greater weight gain per 50 unit increase was independently associated with increases in GL (p<0.001). Moreover, the study also showed a relationship between changes in protein foods intake and GL. These interactions included a positive association between increased cheese intake and weight gain when GL increased, between cheese intake and weight stability when GL did not change, and between cheese intake and weight loss when GL decreased.

Protein foods were interchanged with each other or carbohydrate-rich foods. The study showed that changes in protein foods and GL could play a role on long-term weight gain.

Practice Pearls:

  • There were positive associations between long-term weight gain and protein foods such as meats, chicken with skin, and regular cheese.
  • There was no association for protein foods such as milk, legumes, peanuts, or eggs.
  • Weight loss was observed in diet with yogurt, peanut butter, walnuts, other nuts, chicken without skin, low-fat cheese, and seafood.

Jessica D Smith et al. “Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: results from 3 prospective cohorts.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015.