The Potential Role of Protein Leverage in the US Obesity Epidemic

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Aug;27(8):1222-1224. doi: 10.1002/oby.22520. Epub 2019 May 16.


The protein leverage model of obesity posits that decreasing the protein fraction of the diet leads to compensatory increases in total energy intake in an attempt to maintain a target amount of absolute protein consumed. The resulting increased energy intake thereby causes weight gain. According to food balance sheets published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, while the absolute protein content of the US food supply has increased since the early 1970s, the fraction of available calories from protein has decreased by ~1% because of greater increases in available carbohydrate and fat. Counterintuitively, even such a small decrease in the protein fraction of the food supply has the potential to result in relatively large increases in energy intake according to the protein leverage model. Therefore, while the protein leverage effect is unlikely to fully explain the obesity epidemic, its potential contribution should not be ignored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / analysis*
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis*
  • Energy Intake
  • Food Analysis
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Proteins