Impact on cardiometabolic risk of a weight loss intervention with higher protein from lean red meat: Combined results of 2 randomized controlled trials in obese middle-aged and older adults

J Clin Lipidol. 2019 Nov-Dec;13(6):920-931. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2019.09.012. Epub 2019 Oct 2.


Background: The recognized benefits of a higher protein diet on muscle mass and strength in older adults are tempered by concerns of the potentially negative cardiometabolic impact of dietary sources of animal protein.

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the cardiometabolic impact of 2 weight reduction diets: a higher protein diet, providing balanced portions of lean beef and pork throughout the day, vs. a diet following the Recommended Daily Allowance level of protein in obese middle-aged and older adults.

Methods: Data from Measuring Eating, Activity and Strength: Understanding the Response-Using Protein and Protein Optimization in Women Enables Results-Using Protein were combined for the present analysis. Subjects were randomly assigned to a 6-month weight loss diet (500 kcal deficit) and prescribed a Recommended Daily Allowance level of protein (0.8 g protein/kg BW), control group, or a higher level of protein (1.2 g protein/kg BW), protein group. For the protein group, lean, high-quality protein was evenly distributed between meals or balanced throughout the day (30 g protein/meal). The following cardiometabolic markers were quantified by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy: lipids, lipoproteins, GlycA, trimethylamine-N-oxide, betaine, branched-chain amino acids, and lipoprotein insulin resistance index scores.

Results: In both groups (control [n = 27] and protein [n = 53]), there were significant (P ≤ .05) changes from baseline in weight loss (-6.2% and -7.2%), distance walked (+53.1 and +75.0 meters), and fasting plasma glucose (-7.5 and -6.2 mg/dL), respectively. At endpoint, protein group had significantly (P ≤ .05) lower triglycerides (-17.3 mg/dL), large very-low-density lipoprotein particle concentration (VLDL-P; -1.2 nmol/L), total low-density lipoprotein particle concentration (LDL-P; -67.8 nmol/L), small LDL-P (-59.4 nmol/L) and lipoprotein insulin resistance index (-5.9), whereas control group had significantly (P ≤ .05) lower GlycA (-13.1 μmol/L), total VLDL-P (-7.9 nmol/L), and small VLDL-P (-7.0 nmol/L). Differences between groups were observed for small VLDL-P (P = .02) and protein intake (P < .0001).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that a hypocaloric diet with either traditional (0.8 g/kg BW/d) or higher protein (1.2 g/kg BW/d; predominantly from lean red meat) content improves risk markers of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes in obese middle-aged and older adults. Both diets were also associated with improved physical function, and neither had an adverse impact on cardiometabolic outcomes.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease risk; Insulin resistance; Middle-aged adults; Obesity; Older adults; Protein; Red meat; Weight loss intervention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity
  • Red Meat
  • Weight Loss


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipoproteins