Higher Protein Diets Associated with Cardiometabolic Advantages

Woman measuring her waist

Men and women with greater dietary protein intakes were more likely to have lower body mass index and waist circumference, and higher HDL-cholesterol.

A cross-sectional study of over 23,000 adults from the NHANES, 2001-2010, examined usual protein intakes [expressed as g/kg body weight (BW) per day], and trends for associations with cardiometabolic risk factors including blood pressure, glucose, insulin, cholesterol, and triglycerides stratified by weight status using cut-points of >18.5, >25 and >30 kg/m2 for normal weight, overweight, and obese, respectively [Pasaikos, 2015]. Subjects were separated into deciles of usual protein intake, which ranged from 0.69 g/kg BW in the lowest decile to 1.51 g/kg BW in the highest decile.

Analyses indicated that a higher protein intake (g/kg BW) was associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower waist circumference in the total population, with a more pronounced effect in overweight and obese than in normal weight individuals. Further, there was a positive association between protein intake and HDL-cholesterol in all weight classifications, which persisted after adjustment for multiple variables including energy and macronutrient intake. There were no other associations identified between protein intake and other cardiometabolic risk factors.

The authors noted a “robust association between dietary protein and HDL cholesterol”. Results showed that

“HDL cholesterol concentrations for those who consumed ~1.5 g protein/kg BW were ~15% higher than those who consumed protein at or below the RDA, particularly in overweight individuals.”

In summary, the authors stated that this study

“demonstrates the health-related benefits associated with habitual consumption of dietary protein beyond the RDA. The levels of protein routinely consumed in deciles 6 through 10 (~1.0-1.5 g/kg BW), that were associated with lower waist circumference, BMI, and higher HDL cholesterol are consistent with nationally recognized recommendations (based on nitrogen and skeletal muscle retention) for physically active adults…military personnel…older adults…and individuals attempting weight loss…all of which are higher than the current RDA.”


Reference Citation

Pasiakos, SM, HR Lieberman, and VL Fulgoni. “Higher-protein diets are associated with higher HDL cholesterol and lower BMI and waist circumference in US Adults.” J Nutrition 2015; Mar;145(3):605-14.

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