A High-Protein Diet Helps Overweight Seniors Shed Pounds Safely, Study Suggests

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Many doctors have a tough time recommending weight-loss strategies for seniors. After all, weight loss can often lead to bone and muscle loss for people over 65, and health practitioners want to be sure these folks stay as healthy as possible in their golden years. Thanks to new research, there just might be a solution to this common problem.

A February 2019 study published in the scientific journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism assigned 96 adults over age 65 to one of two different meal plans: a low-cal, high-protein plan or a “weight-stability” plan targeting .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. While the weight-stability plan followed the current government-recommended allowance, the high-protein plan in the context of this study included more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. (It’s also worth noting that the high-protein plan also emphasized adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium.)

After six months passed, results showed that participants following the high-protein plan lost about 18 pounds — and most of it was fat. Even though they lost that much weight, they were still able to preserve muscle mass and maintain bone mass. In comparison, the weight-stability group only lost about half a pound.

Experts say the method of consuming more protein and fewer calories in a plan like this might help older adults lose weight and more “bad fat” in a safe manner — and that’s a true game-changer.

“Doctors hesitate to recommend weight loss for fear that losing muscle and bone could cause mobility issues or increase the risk of injury,” said principal investigator Kristen Beavers in a press release. “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.”

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