Protein Leverage: Theoretical Foundations and Ten Points of Clarification

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Aug;27(8):1225-1238. doi: 10.1002/oby.22531.


Much attention has been focused on fats and carbohydrates as the nutritional causes of energy overconsumption and obesity. In 2003, a model of intake regulation was proposed in which the third macronutrient, protein, is not only involved but is a primary driver of calorie intake via its interactions with carbohydrates and fats. This model, called protein leverage, posits that the strong regulation of protein intake causes the overconsumption of fats and carbohydrates (hence total energy) on diets with a low proportion of energy from protein and their underconsumption on diets with a high proportion of protein. Protein leverage has since been demonstrated in a range of animal studies and in several studies of human macronutrient regulation, and its potential role in contributing to the obesity epidemic is increasingly attracting discussion. Over recent years, however, several misconceptions about protein leverage have arisen. Our aim in this paper is to briefly outline some key aspects of the underlying theory and clarify 10 points of misunderstanding that have the potential to divert attention from the substantive issues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Humans
  • Nutrients / metabolism*
  • Obesity / etiology*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins