According to results from a randomized controlled trial, a high protein reduced calorie diet can help older obese individuals lose more weight and “bad” fat, while maintaining muscle mass and improving bone quality. Geriatricians have struggled with safe weight loss recommendations for the elderly due to the muscle and bone loss that can result from losing weight. Muscle and bone loss could increase injury risk or lead to mobility issues.
The results of the study suggest that a reduced calorie diet high in protein can provide the health benefits that are derived from weight loss for older individuals while maintaining muscle and bone needed for better life quality while aging. For the study, 96 individuals aged 65 or over were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: a 6-month reduced calorie meal plan which included more than 1 gram of protein/kg of body weight, in addition to adequate vitamin D and calcium; or a control group that followed the current recommended dietary allowance of .8 grams of protein/kg of body weight. It was decided not to include exercise, as most older individuals are unlikely to perform the intensity and volume of exercise required for preserving muscle and bone.
The study discovered:
- The group 1 participants lost approximately 18 pounds, 87% of it fat, while preserving muscle mass. Approximately half a pound was lost by the participants in the control group.
- Bone mass was maintained even when weight was lost. Trabecular bone score, a bone quality measure predicting risk of fracture, actually improved.
- Hip, thigh, rear and stomach fat was lost, which is important for controlling or preventing cardiometabolic diseases like stroke and diabetes.
- Healthy Aging Index score, biomarker measures predicting longevity and mortality, improved by 0.75 points.
Smaller studies had previously been conducted by the researchers for which they had overseen the preparation and planning of reduced calorie high-protein meals for weight-loss. For this study, the weight-loss group followed a nutritionally complete, high protein reduced calorie meal plan which made use of 4 meal replacements, 2 lean protein and vegetable meals prepared by the participants, and 1 healthy snack.
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