Dietary protein in weight management: a review proposing protein spread and change theories

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Sep 12;9(1):81. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-81.


A large volume of human clinical data supports increased dietary protein for favorable changes to body composition, but not all data are conclusive. The aim of this review is to propose two theories, "protein spread theory" and "protein change theory" in an effort to explain discrepancies in the literature. Protein spread theory proposed that there must have been a sufficient spread or % difference in g/kg/day protein intake between groups during a protein intervention to see body composition and anthropometric differences. Protein change theory postulated that for the higher protein group, there must be a sufficient change from baseline g/kg/day protein intake to during study g/kg/day protein intake to see body composition and anthropometric benefits. Fifty-one studies met inclusion criteria. In studies where a higher protein intervention was deemed successful there was, on average, a 58.4% g/kg/day between group protein intake spread versus a 38.8% g/kg/day spread in studies where a higher protein diet was no more effective than control. The average change in habitual protein intake in studies showing higher protein to be more effective than control was +28.6% compared to +4.9% when additional protein was no more effective than control. Providing a sufficient deviation from habitual intake appears to be an important factor in determining the success of additional protein in weight management interventions. A modest increase in dietary protein favorably effects body composition during weight management interventions.