Original Article

International Journal of Obesity advance online publication 3 November 2015; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.182

Protein intake and lean body mass preservation during energy intake restriction in overweight older adults

E M P Backx1,2, M Tieland1,2, K J Borgonjen-van den Berg1, P R Claessen1, L J C van Loon2,3 and L C P G M de Groot1,2

  1. 1Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2Top Institute Food and Nutrition, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  3. 3NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Correspondence: Professor LCPGM de Groot, Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, PO Box 8129, Wageningen 6700EV, The Netherlands. E-mail: Lisette.deGroot@wur.nl

Received 25 March 2015; Revised 13 August 2015; Accepted 23 August 2015
Accepted article preview online 16 October 2015; Advance online publication 3 November 2015





Dietary-induced weight loss is generally accompanied by a decline in skeletal muscle mass. The loss of muscle mass leads to a decline in muscle strength and impairs physical performance. A high dietary protein intake has been suggested to allow muscle mass preservation during energy intake restriction.



To investigate the impact of increasing dietary protein intake on lean body mass, strength and physical performance during 12 weeks of energy intake restriction in overweight older adults.



Sixty-one overweight and obese men and women (63±5 years) were randomly assigned to either a high protein diet (HP; 1.7gkg−1 per day; n=31) or normal protein diet (NP; 0.9gkg−1 per day; n=30) during a 12-week 25% energy intake restriction. During this controlled dietary intervention, 90% of the diet was provided by the university. At baseline and after the intervention, body weight, lean body mass (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), leg strength (1-repetition maximum), physical performance (Short Physical Performance Battery, 400m) and habitual physical activity (actigraph) were assessed.



Body weight declined in both groups with no differences between the HP and NP groups (−8.9±2.9 versus −9.1±3.4kg, respectively; P=0.584). Lean body mass declined by 1.8±2.2 and 2.1±1.4kg, respectively, with no significant differences between groups (P=0.213). Leg strength had decreased during the intervention by 8.8±14.0 and 8.9±12.8kg, with no differences between groups (P=0.689). Physical performance as measured by 400m walking speed improved in both groups, with no differences between groups (P=0.219).



Increasing protein intake above habitual intake levels (0.9gkg−1 per day) does not preserve lean body mass, strength or physical performance during prolonged energy intake restriction in overweight older adults.

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