Dietary protein intake and obesity-associated cardiometabolic function

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2020 Nov;23(6):380-386. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000689.


Purpose of review: High-protein intake is commonly recommended to help people manage body weight. However, high-protein intake could have adverse health consequences. Here we review the latest findings concerning the effect of high-protein intake on cardiometabolic health.

Recent findings: Calorie-reduced, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets lower plasma glucose in people with type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, when carbohydrate intake is not markedly reduced, high-protein intake often does not alter plasma glucose and increases insulin and glucagon concentrations, which are risk factors for T2D and ischemic heart disease. High-protein intake does not alter plasma triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations but promotes atherogenesis in animal models. The effect of high-protein intake on liver fat remains unclear. In population studies, high-protein intake is associated with increased risk for T2D, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and possibly cardiovascular diseases.

Summary: The relationship between protein intake and cardiometabolic health is complex and influenced by concomitant changes in body weight and overall diet composition. Although a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, reduced-energy diet can have beneficial effects on body weight and plasma glucose, habitual high-protein intake, without marked carbohydrate and energy restriction, is associated with increased cardiometabolic disease risk, presumably mediated by the changes in the hormonal milieu after high-protein intake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiometabolic Risk Factors
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diet, High-Protein / adverse effects*
  • Diet, High-Protein Low-Carbohydrate / adverse effects
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucagon
  • Cholesterol