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Including enough protein in our diets,
rather than simply cutting calories,
is the key to curbing appetites and
preventing excessive consumption of fats
and carbohydrates, a new study from the
University of Sydney has found.
A multi disciplinary team of researchers
has shown that people on a 10% protein
diet will eat more snacks between meals and
consume significantly more calories in total
compared with people on a 15% protein diet.
The results, published in the online
journal PLOS ONE, represent the first
scientifically supported evidence that dietary
protein plays an important role in appetite
and total food consumption in humans,
and is an important step in addressing the
global obesity epidemic.
"Humans have a particularly strong app-
etite for protein, and when the proportion
of protein in the diet is low this appetite
can drive excess energy intake," said lead
author Dr Alison Goby, who conducted the
study with Professor Steve Simpson from
the School of Biological Sciences.
"Our findings have considerable impli-
cations for body weight management in the
current nutritional environment, where
foods rich in fat and carbohydrates are
cheap, palatable, and available to an extent
unprecedented in our history."
Protein is the driving force for appetite
in many animals, according to Professor
Steve Simpson, a world leader in nutrition.
The 'protein-leverage' hypothesis, first
proposed by Steve Simpson and co-author
David Raubenheimer, proposes that animals
have a fixed protein target, which they will
defend at the expense of other nutrients.
"Our previous work on slime moulds,
insects, fish, birds, rodents, mink, cats and
monkeys has shown that animals have
separate appetites for protein, fat and
carbohydrate. Interestingly, if protein in the
diet is diluted, even by a small amount by
extra fat and carbohydrate, the appetite for
protein dominates and they will keep eating
in an attempt to attain their target level of
protein," he says.
Although it has previously been sugg-
ested that protein content plays an important
role in determining overall energy intake in
humans, and is therefore linked to obesity,
until now experimental verification has been
In the latest study, researchers took
a group of 22 lean people and fed each
subject each of three menus (of 10%, 15%
and 25% protein) during three separate four
day periods, monitoring energy intake over
each period and hunger ratings on day four.
The researchers found subjects who
ate a 10% protein diet consumed 12% more
energy over four days than those eating a
15% protein diet. Moreover, 70% of the
increased energy intake on the lower protein
diet was attributed to snacking.
But when the protein content was
further increased to 25%, the researchers
observed no change in behaviour relative to
the 15% protein diet. On the final day of the
trial though, those eating the 10% protein
breakfast reported feeling hungrier after
one or two hours than those eating the
highest protein meal.
According to Dr Gosby, "This result
confirms the 'protein-leverage' effect in
humans and importantly, shows counting
calories is not enough to manage appetite
and body weight."
Professor Simpson says today's Western
diets -- where protein is increasingly diluted
by fats and carbohydrates -- are likely to be
causing us to overeat and could be fuelling
the obesity epidemic.
"Our results indicate low protein diets
will cause humans to overeat. Tragically,
in the modern Westernised environment
there are many factors encouraging us to
eat foods high in sugars and fat, including
reduced cost and increased availability of
these foods. Underpinning all this is our
ancestral environment in which fat and
simple sugars were highly prized, leaving us
with a predilection for these foods."
Gosby AK, Conigrave AD, Lau NS, Iglesias
MA, Hall RM, et al. (2011) Testing Protein
Leverage in Lean Humans: A Randomised
Controlled Experimental Study. PLoS
ONE 6(10): e25929. doi:10.1371/journal.
Chinese medicine looks
to local research
China's largest Chinese Medicine
hospital is backing Australian
researchers to help provide better
health outcomes for sufferers of emphy-
sema and chronic bronchitis.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
(COPD) is a growing international health
problem, particularly in China, affecting
millions of smokers, and is a focus of a
new research agreement with RMIT
Guangdong Provincial Hospital of
Chinese Medicine and Guangdong Provincial
Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences
Research has signed a $2 million deal with
RMIT's School of Health Sciences and
Health Innovations Research Institute.
Professor Yu Bo Lu, President of the
Guangdong Provincial Hospital of Chinese
Medicine said RMIT was well recognised
in China and also internationally for its
excellence in Chinese Medicine research
"The principal aims of our research
collaboration are to develop the evidence
base in order to inform clinical practice and
provide better health outcomes for people
throughout the world," he said.
Professor Charlie Xue, Head of School
of Health Sciences and Director of the
Traditional and Complementary Medicine
Research Program, said RMIT had been
the largest provider of Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM) studies in Australia since
1993 and was committed to an evidence-
"TCM is a complete healthcare system
with a 2,500-year history," he said. "Unlike
Western medicine, which focuses on
identifying and treating conditions affecting
individual body systems and organs, TCM
looks at the overall relationships between
body systems and organs."
From July 2012, national registration
of Chinese Medicine as a primary health
care profession will start under the
National Registration and Accreditation
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