Protein metabolic roles in treatment of obesity

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jul;13(4):403-7. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833a7737.


Purpose of review: To understand the potential benefits of increased dietary protein during weight loss and the importance of distribution of high-quality protein at each meal.

Recent findings: Popular weight loss diets emphasize use of protein as a substitute for carbohydrates or fat to reduce insulin and minimize hunger and food cravings. These diets produce short-term weight loss, but long-term benefits remain obscured by failure to differentiate between outcomes of subject compliance and diet effectiveness. New molecular mechanisms have defined the benefits of protein as a meal threshold for the branched-chain amino acid leucine, which has been characterized as a unique signal regulator of muscle protein synthesis. Leucine consumed at 2.5 g triggers a postmeal anabolic response that protects metabolic active tissues during weight loss and increases loss of body fat.

Summary: Balanced daily distribution of protein with increased intake at breakfast and lunch protects metabolically active tissues including skeletal muscle during weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Leucine / administration & dosage
  • Leucine / pharmacology*
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Patient Compliance
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Leucine