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Effect of Protein and Carbohydrate Intake on Obesity

28 February 2011

A combination of how proteins and carbohydrates are absorbed into the body has an effect on body fat and obesity, writes TheMeatSite Editor in Chief, Chris Harris.

According to a study carried out by scientists at universities across Europe including Denmark, Greece, Germany, UKand Bulgaria, shows that neither protein nor Glycemic Index (GI) - the measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels - in isolation has no effect on the body's composition.

However, if there is a low protein intake and a high GI body fat increases and conversely is there is a high protein intake and a low GI then this food in-take appeared to have a protective capacity against obesity.

The GI increases according to how rapidly carbohydrates are converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly have a low GI and those that breakdown rapidly have a high GI.

The study was conducted into a samply group of 827 children - 381 boys and 446 girls - aged fivew to 18 years old.

The object of the research was to investigate the effect of protein and glycemic index on the body composition of children across Europe.

The research was a six month dietry intervention DiOGenes (diet, obesity and genes) family based study.

Families with parents who lost eight per cent or more of their weight during an eight-week run-in low-calorie diet period were randomly assigned to one of five diets chosen at random.

The diets were: low protein (LP)/low Glycemic Index (LGI); LP/high GI (HGI); high protein (HP)/LGI; HP/HGI; and a control diet.

The target difference was 15 GI units between the LGI and HGI groups and 13 protein percentage points between the LP and HP groups.

There were 658 children examined after four weeks.

Advice was given on changing and modifying their food-choice at six visits during this period of the study.

No advice was given on weight loss because the focus of the study was the ability of the diets to affect outcomes through appetite regulation.

Anthropometric measurements and body composition were assessed at the start, at week four and then week 26.

In all, 465 children (58.1 per cent) completed all assessments.

The differences between the GI and protein groups were 2.3 GI units and 4.9 protein percentage points, respectively.

The study found that the LP/HGI group increased body fat percentage significantly more than the other groups (P = .040; partial η2 = 0.039), and the percentage of overweight/obese children in the HP/LGI group decreased significantly during the intervention (P = .031).

Because of these results, the researchers concluded that a high protein and low Glycemic index diet could protect children against obesity. The research, The Effect of Protein and Glycemic Index on Children's Body Composition: The DiOGenes Randomized Study, was published in Pediatrics Digest last year.


The research team included: Angeliki Papadaki, PhDa, Manolis Linardakis, MSca, Thomas M. Larsen, PhDb, Marleen A. van Baak, PhDc, Anna Karin Lindroos, PhDd, Andreas F. H. Pfeiffer, MDe,f, J. Alfredo Martinez, PhDg, Teodora Handjieva-Darlenska, MD, PhDh, Marie Kunesová, MD, PhDi, Claus Holst, MSci, PhDj, Arne Astrup, MD, DScb, Wim H. M. Saris, MD, PhDc, Anthony Kafatos, MDa, on behalf of the DiOGenes Study Group.

aDepartment of Social Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Nutrition Clinic, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece;
bDepartment of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark;
cDepartment of Human Biology, Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute Maastricht, University of Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands;
dMRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, United Kingdom;
eDepartment of Clinical Nutrition, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal, Germany;
fDepartment of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany;
gDepartment of Physiology and Nutrition, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain;
hDepartment of Human Nutrition, Dietetics and Metabolic Diseases, National Transport Hospital, Sofia, Bulgaria;
iObesity Management Centre, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague, Czech Republic; and
jInstitute of Preventive Medicine, Center for Health and Society, Copenhagen, Denmark

February 2011

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