High protein diets are increasingly popularized in lay media as a promising strategy for weight loss by providing the twin benefits of improving satiety and decreasing fat mass. Some of the potential mechanisms that account for weight loss associated with high-protein diets involve increased secretion of satiety hormones (GIP, GLP-1), reduced orexigenic hormone secretion (ghrelin), the increased thermic effect of food and protein-induced alterations in gluconeogenesis to improve glucose homeostasis. There are, however, also possible caveats that have to be considered when choosing to consume a high-protein diet. A high intake of branched-chain amino acids in combination with a western diet might exacerbate the development of metabolic disease. A diet high in protein can also pose a significant acid load to the kidneys. Finally, when energy demand is low, excess protein can be converted to glucose (via gluconeogenesis) or ketone bodies and contribute to a positive energy balance, which is undesirable if weight loss is the goal. In this review, we will therefore explore the mechanisms whereby a high-protein diet may exert beneficial effects on whole body metabolism while we also want to present possible caveats associated with the consumption of a high-protein diet.
Keywords: Energy expenditure; High-protein diet; Satiety; Thermic effect of food; Weight loss.