A high-protein, low-calorie diet is one of the most effective for weight loss, research suggests.
People consuming more protein as part of a calorie-controlled diet lost 18 pounds, on average, over six months.
In addition, the older adults in the study maintained their muscle mass and bone density.
Previous studies have shown that adding more lean meats and low-fat dairy boosts weight loss compared with just restricting calories.
Higher protein intake is thought to make people feel more satisfied, so decreasing calorie intake.
Diets containing more protein have been linked to better sleep, which can benefit weight loss.
Sticking to around 30 percent of calories from proteins also helps to lower blood sugar and lipid levels.
Dr Kristen Beavers, study co-author, said:
“Doctors hesitate to recommend weight loss for fear that losing muscle and bone could cause mobility issues or increase the risk of injury.
This study suggests that a diet high in protein and low in calories can give seniors the health benefits of weight loss while keeping the muscle and bone they need for better quality of life as they age.”
The study included 96 older obese adults who were put on one of two diets.
Half were put on a six-month low-calorie diet with extra protein.
People ate 1 gram of protein each day for each kilogram of their body weight.
Participants were also given adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D, which have also been linked to weight loss.
The other half were put on a weight maintenance diet.
The results showed that those on the high protein diet lost 18 pounds, largely of fat.
The fat loss was mostly in areas that are important for decreasing cardiovascular risk — around the centre of the body.
Study participants also preserved their muscle mass.
The study was published in the journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (Serra et al., 2019).