Higher-Protein Low-Glycemic Diets are Key for Weight Maintenance

By Juniper Devecis MS RD CCN

A recent article published in the November New England Journal of Medicine adds more evidence that a high protein, low glycemic index diet may be the key for weight management and maintenance.1

The study involved over 500 overweight adults from eight European countries. All participants had initially lost at least 8% of their total body weight on an 800-1000 calorie per day diet, and were then randomized to a low protein (13%) or high protein (25%) diet with a low glycemic or high glycemic index. All of the diets in the study had a moderate fat content (25-30% of total) with no restriction on total calories.

Results indicate that the both high protein and low glycemic index diets offer statistically significant support for weight maintenance. Participants following the high protein diet had an average of 2 pounds less weight regain than those following the low-protein diet. The low-glycemic diet had similar findings. Additionally, the high-protein groups and low-glycemic index groups were both more likely to achieve additional weight loss during the maintenance phase. No differences were reported in appetite between the groups, however it may be that the effects were too subtle to be accurately measured.2

This research mirrors similar findings for weight management. In a 2006 meta-analysis, diets consisting of ≤ 35-41% energy from carbohydrates and > 1.05 grams of protein per kilogram body weight were associated with healthy weight management and body composition. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials showed similar support for weight management and body composition with low-glycemic index diets, as well as support for lipid metabolism. These results even extended to comparisons of ad libitum low-glycemic diets with conventional restricted energy low-fat diets.3

Ensuring protein and fiber intake (lower glycemic index) can be an important part of any weight management or maintenance plan. These nutrients allow for a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream, promoting glucose metabolism. Emerging research suggests that this support may be key to the cardiovascular, cellular and metabolic health benefits offered by a low glycemic diet.4


  1. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, et al. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13.
  2. Krieger JW, Sitren HS, Daniels MJ, Langkamp-Henken B. Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):260-74.
  3. Thomas DE, Elliott EJ, Baur L. Low glycaemic index or low glycaemic load diets for overweight and obesity. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD005105.
  4. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk–a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):627-37.