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Protein, malnutrition and wasting disorders

The effects of proteins and medium-chain fatty acids from milk on body composition, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in abdominally obese adults




To investigate whether intake of whey protein and butter naturally enriched in medium-chain fatty acids (MC-SFAs) (C6–C12) affected body composition, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure (BP) and plasma cholesterol concentrations.


A 12-week randomised, double-blinded, intervention study was completed in 52 abdominally obese adults. Subjects were assigned to one of four dietary supplementations: 63 g per day of milk fat with either high- (8.5 g per day) or low-MC-SFA (6.9 g per day) content combined with 60 g per day of whey or casein.

We examined changes in the body composition by dual-energy X-ray absorption scan, insulin sensitivity using homoeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and Matsuda index, and diurnal BP and plasma cholesterol concentrations. Two-factor analysis of variance was used to examine the impact of MC-SFA content and protein type.


We observed that lean body mass increased by 981 g (95% confidence interval (CI): 248–1713; P=0.010) after high-MC-SFA compared with low-MC-SFA supplementation. Concomitantly, total body-fat percentage increased by 0.70 percentage points (95% CI: 0.10–1.31; P=0.024) after intake of low-MC-SFA butter compared with intake of high-MC-SFA butter. Both changes were independent of protein type (P=0.96 and P=0.99, respectively). We found no difference in HOMA-IR, Matsuda index, diurnal BP or plasma cholesterol concentrations related to MC-SFA content or protein type.


Enhanced intake of MC-SFA increased the lean body mass and caused a significantly lower total body-fat percentage compared with lower intake of MC-SFA. Consequently, the composition of dairy fat should be considered when evaluating the impact of dairy products on body composition.

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We thank the study participants for their contribution and time. We thank Eva Mølgaard Jensen, Lene Trudsø and Tove Skrumsager for their excellent technical assistance. We thank Allan Stubbe Christensen, Anne Grethe Schioldan, Annemarie Kruse, Kia Valum Rasmussen, Peter Reiter and Zohrah Rahmatyar for their assistance in handling the study participants. We thank librarian Edith Clausen and biostatistician Mogens Erlandsen for their valuable assistance. Grants were from the Danish Council for Strategic Research (DSF 0603-004193), the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the Arla Food Ingredients Group P/S. Protein powder was provided by Arla Foods Ingredients Group P/S. AB was supported by research grants from The Danish Diabetes Academy supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and Aarhus University. Arla Foods Ingredients Group P/S contributed to the study design, but had no role in the conduct of the study, the analysis of data or in the writing of this article.

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Correspondence to M Bohl.

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Bohl, M., Bjørnshave, A., Larsen, M. et al. The effects of proteins and medium-chain fatty acids from milk on body composition, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in abdominally obese adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 71, 76–82 (2017).

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