Randomized trial on protein vs carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity

  • International Journal of Obesity volume 23, pages 528536 (1999)
  • doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0800867
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OBJECTIVE: To study the effect on weight loss in obese subjects by replacement of carbohydrate by protein in ad libitum consumed fat-reduced diets.

DESIGN: Randomized dietary intervention study over six months comparing two ad libitum fat reduced diets (30% of total energy) strictly controlled in composition: High-carbohydrate (HC, protein 12% of total energy) or high-protein (HP, protein 25% of total energy).

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Subjects were 65 healthy, overweight and obese subjects (50 women, 15 men, aged 18–55 y) randomly assigned to HC (n=25), HP (n=25) or a control group (C, n=15). All food was provided by self-selection in a shop at the department, and compliance to the diet composition was evaluated by urinary nitrogen excretion.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Change in body weight, body composition and blood lipids.

RESULTS: More than 90% completed the trial. Weight loss after six months was 5.1 kg in the HC group and 8.9 kg in the HP group (difference 3.7 kg, 95% confidence interval (CI)(1.3–6.2 kg) P<0.001), and fat loss was 4.3 kg and 7.6 kg, respectively (difference 3.3 kg (1.1–5.5 kg) P<0.0001), whereas no changes occurred in the control group. More subjects lost >10 kg in the HP group (35 %) than in the HC group (9 %). The HP diet only decreased fasting plasma triglycerides and free fatty acids significantly.

CONCLUSIONS: Replacement of some dietary carbohydrate by protein in an ad libitum fat-reduced diet, improves weight loss and increases the proportion of subjects achieving a clinically relevant weight loss. More freedom to choose between protein-rich and complex carbohydrate-rich foods may allow obese subjects to choose more lean meat and dairy products, and hence improve adherence to low-fat diets in weight reduction programs.

Author information


  1. Research Department of Human Nutrition, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • AR Skov
    • , S Toubro
    • , L Holm
    •  & A Astrup
  2. Department of Mathematics, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • B Rønn


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to A Astrup.