Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance

Annu Rev Nutr. 2009:29:21-41. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056.


The role of dietary protein in weight loss and weight maintenance encompasses influences on crucial targets for body weight regulation, namely satiety, thermogenesis, energy efficiency, and body composition. Protein-induced satiety may be mainly due to oxidation of amino acids fed in excess, especially in diets with "incomplete" proteins. Protein-induced energy expenditure may be due to protein and urea synthesis and to gluconeogenesis; "complete" proteins having all essential amino acids show larger increases in energy expenditure than do lower-quality proteins. With respect to adverse effects, no protein-induced effects are observed on net bone balance or on calcium balance in young adults and elderly persons. Dietary protein even increases bone mineral mass and reduces incidence of osteoporotic fracture. During weight loss, nitrogen intake positively affects calcium balance and consequent preservation of bone mineral content. Sulphur-containing amino acids cause a blood pressure-raising effect by loss of nephron mass. Subjects with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes are particularly susceptible groups. This review provides an overview of how sustaining absolute protein intake affects metabolic targets for weight loss and weight maintenance during negative energy balance, i.e., sustaining satiety and energy expenditure and sparing fat-free mass, resulting in energy inefficiency. However, the long-term relationship between net protein synthesis and sparing fat-free mass remains to be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Gluconeogenesis / drug effects
  • Gluconeogenesis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Satiety Response / drug effects*
  • Satiety Response / physiology
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects
  • Thermogenesis / physiology
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Dietary Proteins