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Weight Loss as Advertised: What High Protein Diets Got Right



Nearly 42% of American adults suffers from obesity, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 1971, cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins released The Atkins Diet Revolution, introducing the general public to a revolutionary high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet plan and creating decades of debate within the medical and nutritional communities. Under the Atkins diet plan, portioned-controlled salads and an emphasis on the food pyramid gave way to almost limitless amounts of fatty meats, dairy products, and other formerly restricted food choices.

Subsequent high-protein diets such as The Zone or Keto further refined the fat-burning principles behind Atkins approach, with the ultimate goal of inducing a fat-burning metabolic state called ketosis. The radical dietary steps required to induce and maintain ketosis have raised concerns in the medical community, but many dieticians would agree that high-protein diet plans have indeed contributed to weight loss and overall health improvement.

High Protein Diets Really Do Change Body Chemistry

The actual mechanics of high-protein diets such as Atkins still remain largely a mystery to researchers. It was originally believed that protein-rich foods took longer to digest than foods higher in carbohydrates, such as breads or cereals. Subsequent weight loss was attributed to a greater sense of fullness between meals. Inducing ketosis may have helped burn body fat during a starvation response, but it was not a long-term solution to weight loss.

In a 2016 study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Brighton, England, researchers released laboratory testing results on rodents fed high-protein diets. They discovered that phenylalanine, a common byproduct of protein-rich diets, interacted with the body’s calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR). This receptor triggers the release of GLP-1, a hormone responsible for appetite suppression. Higher levels of GLP-1 and lower levels of ghrelin, a hunger-inducing hormone, led to long-term, sustainable weight loss.

“Our work is the first to demonstrate that activating CaSR can suppress appetite,” said the study’s lead author, Mariana Norton. “It highlights the potential use of phenylalanine or other molecules which stimulate CaSR – like drugs or food components – to prevent or treat obesity.”

Further research into the effects of GLP-1 has led to the development of new injectable medications for both type 2 diabetes and weight loss.

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