The aim of this study was to assess the effects of a weight maintenance period comprising two diets differing in protein intake, after weight loss, on intrahepatic lipid content and implications for insulin sensitivity. A total of 25 participants [body mass index (BMI): 31.1 (3.5 kg/m2; intrahepatic lipid (IHL): 8.7 (8.3%; fasting glucose: 6.4 (0.6 mmol/l; homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR): 3.7 (1.6; Matsuda index: 3.4 (2.9] started an 8-wk low-energy diet followed by a 2-yr weight maintenance period with either high protein or medium protein dietary guidelines. At baseline, after 6 mo, and after 2 yr, IHL, visceral adipose tissue (VAT), and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) were determined by magnetic resonance spectroscopy/imaging. Glucose and insulin concentrations, determined during an oral glucose challenge, were used to assess the HOMA-IR and Matsuda insulin sensitivity index (ISI). Protein intake was measured with 24-h urinary nitrogen excretion. Protein intake, BMI, IHL, VAT, SAT, HOMA-IR, and ISI did not change differently between the groups during the intervention. In the whole group, BMI, IHL, VAT, SAT, HOMA-IR, and ISI were favorably changed at 6 mo and 2 yr compared with baseline ( P < 0.05). Mixed-model analysis showed that independent of BMI, protein intake (g/d) at 6 mo was inversely related to IHL (coefficient: -0.04; P < 0.05) and VAT (coefficient: -0.01; P < 0.05). Overall, IHL was positively related to HOMA-IR (coefficient: 0.10; P < 0.01) and inversely related to ISI (coefficient: -0.17; P < 0.01), independent of BMI. A 2-yr medium- to high-protein energy-restricted diet reduced IHL and VAT. Independently of changes in BMI, IHL was inversely related to insulin sensitivity.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01777893.
Keywords: body composition; insulin sensitivity; intrahepatic lipid content; protein intake; weight loss.