Menu Planning & Recipes

Dorene's BeyondDiets Blog


Does Protein Really Curb Your Appetite? 

It's hard not to get misled by misinformation, or hype, when you're searching for reliable information on weight management. The daily rush to publish makes even seemingly reliable sources vulnerable to "getting it wrong"—because it takes time to do enough research to make sure you've got it right.

Nutrition Action didn't 'get it right' with their recent post on protein and appetite: Does Protein Really Curb Your Appetite?

After more than two decades specializing in weight management I have 52 papers tagged under "appetite regulation" in my research database. Appetite regulation is a fascinating and important topic within weight management. I covered it in my 6-hour Advanced Training in Weight Management CE workshop back in 2003 and 2004, and since then have only seen one other seminar on macronutrients and appetite regulation cross my desk. I know the key papers off the top of my head, and I know that the fact that protein has a higher satiety value is not even a question among researchers who are experts in that area.

That said, there are several important caveats:

  • Liquid proteins are NOT more satiating than other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat). Liquid calories in general have little to no effect on satiety.
  • Highly processed proteins are less satiating. (And certainly there's nothing more processed than protein powders. The fat-free cheese used in a study the Nutrition Action piece discussed is also highly processed source of protein.)

So Nutrition Action got this much right: protein shakes and Special K won’t be items that keep hunger at bay.

A third caveat:

  • The leaner the protein is the more satiating it will be. The leanest protein sources are shellfish and white-fleshed fish (like cod) which are almost pure protein.

Why are the leanest proteins more satiating? It's because fat is nearly the least satiating macronutrient; therefor the more fat a protein has the less satiating it is.

A little known fact is that the satiety value of the macronutrients actually aligns with their TEF (thermic effect of food). The hierarchical order of both satiety value and thermic effect is: protein>carbohydrate>fat>alcohol. 

In fact the conclusion of several of the best long-term clinical trials (12-months) pitting high-protein diets against a balanced or low-fat diet concluded that the difference in weight loss is related to lower (free living) energy-intake which they attribute to the higher satiety to value of protein.

Barbara Rolls (who Nutrition Action interviewed for their article) has long been an advocate for the passé notion that reduced energy density (low-fat) is the key to reducing energy intake and weight loss. This despite data that shows that when you switch to a low-fat regime within a few days subjects just start eating more to compensate (for the reduced energy value). That data was clear 15 years ago, about the time the awareness of the affect of protein on satiety was just coming into the mainstream.

Nutrition Action suggests that the idea that protein staves off hunger stems from food industry research. I'd be the last person to disagree that food industry will co-opt any thread of research it can use to its advantage.

However, the early research (and by far the bulk of the research) in the area of macronutrients and appetite regulation comes from untainted basic science sources well before academia arguably became an arm of industry.

The bottom line: high-quality lean proteins will stave off hunger longer than carbohydrate or fat (unlike protein shakes, Special K, or any highly processed source of protein).

Actionable advice: Whenever you try to cut your energy intake, choosing to also actively manage hunger—by using your knowledge of appetite regulation–is just common sense and will definitely support your efforts.The latest advice (for several objectives including healthy-weight-loss and maintaining lean body mass in aging) is to shoot for 25 to 30-grams of protein at each meal.

For additional information see the links below!

All the best!


  • Macronutrient effects on appetite. Int'l J Obesity 1995;19(Suppl 5): S11-S19.
  • Energy Density of Foods: Effect on Energy Intake. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2000;40(6):481-515.
  • Clarifying Concepts about Macronutrients' Effects on Satiation and Satiety. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104:1151-1153.
  • A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med 2003;348(21):2082-90.

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The 2016 Dieting Season is Off and Running...

After 22 years in this field I have to admit that I periodically get burnt-out on taking the time to read and review new diet books or websites!

Nearly 20 years ago Kelly Brownell PhD once likened fad-diets to trick candles that keep re-lighting when you try to blow them out. Each new crop of books (or websites) invariably claim, “to contain the REAL secrets to weight loss.” This of course is just basic marketing and it’s very effective, especially when the average consumer “knows” more misinformation than fact regarding human metabolism, energy balance, and body weight.

Since it’s January, I thought I’d take a look at what’s “hot” on the diet landscape (based on Google Trends data on internet searches; graphic below). The January 2016 data “spike” is for low-carbohydrate diets. While Paleo and Gluten-free are still popular the significant spikes in interest are for generic low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets.

A ketogenic diet may sound new and even extra “science-y” to some. Dieters that have been around the block however, will recognize that ketosis (and using ketone test strips) was something first advocated in the 1970s by Dr. Robert Atkins. Atkins was the first to propose the notion that ketosis was necessary for “fat-burning” and enhanced weight loss (it’s not).  

What's more, some of the latest ketogenic diets are more extreme than anything Atkins ever proposed, as they restrict protein (to 120-grams per day) while also keeping carbohydrates to just 25-grams per day. Given those limits on protein and carbs, fat is essentially promoted from "condiment" to "entree" status! So unless you're really into drinking vegetable oil, it's safe to say that that will not be an easy or enjoyable diet to attempt to follow! It's also a perfect example of the unnecessary hassle and complication fad-diets invariably demand!

Ketogenic diets are no magic bullet for weight loss; an in-depth discussion of why however will require a blog in itself which I will leave for another day. For today I will simply say that people lose weight secondary only to negative-energy-balance.

In other words (after equivalent levels of calorie-restriction are confirmed) any increase in weight loss attributable to playing with the intake-ratios of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) is minimal, confirming the age old adage that, “You can’t outsmart Mother Nature.”

This is actually good news, because the reality is that you can lose weight following any diet that you find agreeable, and you can maintain your weight loss on any diet that you find agreeable. Ideally you would choose something that is also healthy! The latest US News Diet Rankings highlights healthy and effective diets depending on one's goals.

Whatever diet you choose appetite regulation is a key factor for success, and higher satiety is generally achieved by including 25 to 30 grams of protein with each main meal. That level of protein will also optimize preservation of your lean body mass and bone mineral density during weight loss which in turn will minimize the natural drop in resting metabolic rate associated with reduced body mass.

All the Best!


You may also be interested in:

Pick your approach to weight loss carefully. (RE: recognizing a fad-diet when you see one)
When is a calorie not a calorie? (RE: the interconnection of oxidation & storage of macronutrients)
Glycemic Index, Insulin & weight loss: what are the facts?

For more reliable information on healthy eating and weight loss check out my book (no magic, just the facts): The NEW Healthy Eating & Weight Management Guide.



Is FRAUD the New Business Model for (Some) Weight Loss Supplement Manufacturers?

Back in January I wrote about a growing problem—more and more weight loss supplements being found to include illegal drugs. The trend hasn’t let up, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced last week it was taking sweeping legal action:

As part of a nationwide sweep, the Department of Justice and its federal partners have pursued civil and criminal cases against more than 100 makers and marketers of dietary supplements. The actions discussed today resulted from a year-long effort, beginning in November 2014, to focus enforcement resources in an area of the dietary supplement market that is causing increasing concern among health officials nationwide. 

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Could YOU Triple Your Weight Loss?

The evidence seems to be stacking up that if you’re trying to lose weight, the more frequently you step on the scale the more weight you’ll lose.[i],[ii],[iii],[iv],[v] The most recent study was the first randomized-controlled clinical trial to address the question of self-weighing and weight loss.[vi]

Weighing yourself daily may be optimal…

Subjects that weighed themselves daily lost three times more weight over six months compared to participants who weighed themselves an average of 5.2 times per week.

That’s impressive; daily weighers lost 20.2-pounds over six months compared with 6.8-pounds for those who stepped on the scale “only” 5.2 times per week! What really stands out about this data is that the non-daily

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Weight Loss Fraud: Buyer beware

Most importantly you should know that more and more products are being found to contain illegal and/or unsafe ingredients that are not disclosed on the label.

It's understandable that people continue to hope that a "magic potion" for easy weight loss might come in a bottle. After all, scores of products are on store shelves that are promoted and marketed as just that. Despite all these products, however, there just isn't any magic in a bottle.

The reality is that the manufactures of these products are simply out to make a buck off

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