Effects of dietary protein on the composition of weight loss in post-menopausal women

J Nutr Health Aging. 2008 Oct;12(8):505-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02983202.


Objectives: To determine whether a hypocaloric diet higher in protein can prevent the loss of lean mass that is commonly associated with weight loss.

Design: An intervention study comparing a hypocaloric diet moderately high in protein to one lower in protein.

Setting: Study measurements were taken at the Wake Forest University General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) and Geriatric Research Center (GRC).

Participants: Twenty-four post-menopausal, obese women (mean age = 58 +/- 6.6 yrs; mean BMI = 33.0 +/- 3.6 kg/m2).

Intervention: Two 20-week hypocaloric diets (both reduced by 2800 kcal/wk) were compared: one maintaining dietary protein intake at 30% of total energy intake (1.2-1.5 g/kg/d; HI PROT), and the other maintaining dietary protein intake at 15% of total energy (0.5-0.7 g/kg/d; LO PROT). The GCRC metabolic kitchen provided lunch and dinner meals which the women picked up 3 days per week and ate outside of the clinic.

Measurements: Body composition, including total body mass, total lean mass, total fat mass, and appendicular lean mass, assessed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, was measured before and after the diet interventions.

Results: The HI PROT group lost 8.4 +/- 4.5 kg and the LO PROT group lost 11.4 +/- 3.8 kg of body weight (p = 0.11). The mean percentage of total mass lost as lean mass was 17.3% +/- 27.8% and 37.5% +/- 14.6%, respectively (p = 0.03).

Conclusion: Maintaining adequate protein intake may reduce lean mass losses associated with voluntary weight loss in older women.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Postmenopause
  • Weight Loss*


  • Dietary Proteins