Don’t you love it when science backs up what you’ve always suspected was true? In this case it’s the idea that high-protein foods make you feel fuller longer. Researchers at Purdue University have my back on this one.
There are a lot of fad diets out there, and lots of advice on how and what to eat, some of it good, some questionable at best. But one good piece of wisdom has been: If you feel hungry throughout the day, eat more protein.
Would you believe that until now, no one had ever done a large-scale study on this little nugget of wisdom? That’s crazy, considering the popularity of diets like the Atkins Diet and Paleo diet.
In their new study researchers proved this not-so-little fact, and as an added bonus, tried to get specific about how much protein you need to actually feel full, and when it’s best to chow down. “Tried” is the operative word here.
They proved that protein makes you feel fuller longer in the short-term, but that was about as specific as their findings got.
For their meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the researchers sorted through thousands of studies and settled on 5 as their focus. Each used a design in which participants came to the lab after fasting, ate food containing protein, and then monitored how full they felt over a period of time.
One group of participants was fed a meal high in protein, such as chicken, while another group was fed pasta.
This led to the conclusion by study co-author Richard Mattes, distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, that:
“indeed, higher protein intake led to greater sensation of fullness.”
When the scientists included an additional 28 papers for a secondary analysis, they reached the same conclusion.
The team says even “modestly higher” amounts of protein may help people feel fuller between meals, though it wasn’t able to come up with a specific formula, such as how many grams of protein women of a certain weight and height should eat. Mattes and his colleagues also say their findings didn’t show whether eating protein makes people feel fuller over the long-term, or if the body actually builds a tolerance to protein.
More research is needed into other specific questions too, like whether vegetable protein has the same effect as animal protein, or whether drinking protein in a shake is less satisfying than, say, gnawing on a chicken leg.
Mattes did say:
“Though this study did not specifically evaluate dieters, feeling fuller could help to reduce food intake, an important factor when dieting. If these effects are sustained over the long term – and our study only looked at short-term effects – increased protein intake may aid in the loss or maintenance of body weight.”
People who are looking to lose weight without starving themselves can put the team’s findings into practice. They suggest eating more protein in small increments at first. Protein-rich foods include dairy, meat, fish, fowl, legumes, and some grains.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.