Objective: To study the effect on weight loss in obese subjects by replacement of carbohydrate by protein in ad libitum consumed fat-reduced diets.
Design: Randomized dietary intervention study over six months comparing two ad libitum fat reduced diets (30% of total energy) strictly controlled in composition: High-carbohydrate (HC, protein 12% of total energy) or high-protein (HP, protein 25% of total energy).
Setting and participants: Subjects were 65 healthy, overweight and obese subjects (50 women, 15 men, aged 18-55 y) randomly assigned to HC (n = 25), HP (n = 25) or a control group (C, n = 15). All food was provided by self-selection in a shop at the department, and compliance to the diet composition was evaluated by urinary nitrogen excretion.
Main outcome measure: Change in body weight, body composition and blood lipids.
Results: More than 90% completed the trial. Weight loss after six months was 5.1 kg in the HC group and 8.9 kg in the HP group (difference 3.7 kg, 95% confidence interval (CI)(1.3-6.2 kg) P < 0.001), and fat loss was 4.3 kg and 7.6 kg, respectively (difference 3.3 kg (1.1-5.5 kg) P < 0.0001), whereas no changes occurred in the control group. More subjects lost > 10 kg in the HP group (35%) than in the HC group (9%). The HP diet only decreased fasting plasma triglycerides and free fatty acids significantly.
Conclusions: Replacement of some dietary carbohydrate by protein in an ad libitum fat-reduced diet, improves weight loss and increases the proportion of subjects achieving a clinically relevant weight loss. More freedom to choose between protein-rich and complex carbohydrate-rich foods may allow obese subjects to choose more lean meat and dairy products, and hence improve adherence to low-fat diets in weight reduction programs.