Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Risks of a high-protein diet outweigh the benefits

Sir

Alastair Robertson of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) says that the CSIRO's high-protein Total Wellbeing diet is “based on peer-reviewed science within robust experimental frameworks” (“Diet's healthy blend of science and practicality“ Nature 439, 912; 200610.1038/439912c). These small studies reported no significant difference in weight loss between a high-protein meat-based diet and a control diet with lower protein content. The exception was a small sub-group of women with high triglyceride levels, who lost more weight over 12 weeks with a high-protein diet.

Longer-term trials of high-protein diets are more controversial, but some studies by the CSIRO and others show that such results do not last, and that weight loss and sustainability are not superior to diets that focus on a reduction in fat and overall energy intake (see G. D. Brinkworth et al. Int. J. Obes. 28, 661–670; 2004). Robertson's claim that the Total Wellbeing diet can “contribute to reducing obesity in Australia” is hype, not science. The diet is not a more viable option than current dietary recommendations.

Recent cohort and laboratory studies (T. Norat et al. J. Natl Cancer Inst. 97, 906–916; 2005, and M. H. Lewin et al. Cancer Res. 66, 1859–1865; 2006) also highlight the potential increased risk of colorectal cancer with a high intake of red and processed meat — both prominent in the CSIRO diet. Add the high financial and ecological costs of diets high in meat, and they are not justified in the absence of any superior weight-loss benefit.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stanton, R., Crowe, T. Risks of a high-protein diet outweigh the benefits. Nature 440, 868 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/440868c

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing