Research: High protein diet may improve metabolic syndrome

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High protein diet results in more weight loss and improved biomarkers for metabolic syndrome.

Huge Steak
Huge Steak

Over the years, I have had many people try to sell me the advantages of a high protein diet such as the Adkin’s diet.  I have not bought into the craze, but I have tried the diet once in the past.  It did not work for me.  Some of the newer versions that are based on the Meditteranean diet are different and appear to be based on a diet high in healthy fats and fiber, so they make more sense to me as a scientist, but I have never tried them because moderation works for me.  That being said, this new research may change that.  

 The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is almost 25% in the worldwide adult population and is likely higher in the United States.  Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of metabolic disorders to include central adiposity and any two of the following four factors: reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increased triglycerides, high blood pressure, and hyperglycemia.  Metabolic syndrome is associated with the increasing prevalence of obesity and a higher risk of diabetes type 2 and atherosclerotic heart disease.   

For the treatment of metabolic syndrome, it has long been recommended that suffers consider moderate weight loss, but medical providers steer patients clear of higher protein diets because of the increased fat levels in such diets.   For weight loss, there are many options.  You could try a high protein diet, standard high carb, low-fat diet, or any myriad of possibilities.  If the diet does not deliver the expected weight loss, many adults will end the diet early and never acquire any health benefits.  

A study published in Obesity Facts in 2015 looked at a high protein diet versus a standard diet​[1]​.  The study’s goal was to determine the effect of increased protein intake on weight loss in Mexican adults with metabolic syndrome.  The research was a randomized controlled trial of 118 Mexican adults aged 36-58 years of age who suffer from metabolic syndrome.   The subjects were randomly assigned to two groups and prescribed hypocaloric diets with a 500 calorie deficit providing either a standard protein diet with 0.8 grams protein per kilogram body weight or a higher protein diet with 1.34 grams protein per kilogram bodyweight for six months.  The researchers evaluated body weight, waist circumference, percent body fat by bioimpedance analysis, fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyl transferase at baseline, 3 months, and at 6 months.   Overall, the higher protein group lost about 1.9 kilograms more of body weight and lost 2.3 centimeters more waist circumference.  The waist circumference was not statistically significant, but the high protein group adhered to the diet more.  

The bottom line:  The participants with more adherence rate in the high protein group lost significantly more weight than adherent participants in the standard protein group.  It would make sense that this group would get additional benefits if they maintain this diet.  More research is needed in the form of a longer study.  Six months may not be long enough to bore out success.  

[1]Campos-Nonato, Hernandez, and Barquera, “Effect of a High-Protein Diet versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial.”


  1. Campos-Nonato, Ismael, Lucia Hernandez, and Simon Barquera. “Effect of a High-Protein Diet versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Obesity Facts 10, no. 3 (2017): 238–51. doi: 10.1159/000471485
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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