Obesity: the protein leverage hypothesis

Obes Rev. 2005 May;6(2):133-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2005.00178.x.


The obesity epidemic is among the greatest public health challenges facing the modern world. Regarding dietary causes, most emphasis has been on changing patterns of fat and carbohydrate consumption. In contrast, the role of protein has largely been ignored, because (i) it typically comprises only approximately 15% of dietary energy, and (ii) protein intake has remained near constant within and across populations throughout the development of the obesity epidemic. We show that, paradoxically, these are precisely the two conditions that potentially provide protein with the leverage both to drive the obesity epidemic through its effects on food intake, and perhaps to assuage it. We formalize this hypothesis in a mathematical model. Some supporting epidemiological, experimental and animal data are presented, and predictions are made for future testing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Gluconeogenesis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*


  • Dietary Proteins