New study shows more protein and fewer calories help older people lose weight safely

February 14, 2019

A high-protein, low-calorie diet helps older adults with obesity lose more weight, maintain more muscle mass, improve bone quality and lose "bad" fat, according to results from a new randomized controlled trial led by Wake Forest University researcher Kristen Beavers.

Four research papers based on the study results have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals including the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The latest was published this week in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.

Geriatricians have long struggled with how to recommend safe weight loss for seniors, because dropping pounds can lead to muscle and bone loss.

"Doctors hesitate to recommend weight loss for fear that losing muscle and bone could cause mobility issues or increase the risk of injury," said Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest and principal investigator of this study. "This study suggests that a diet high in protein and low in calories can give seniors the health benefits of weight loss while keeping the muscle and bone they need for better quality of life as they age."

This study aimed to quantify the risk of doing nothing by comparing results from a weight loss group vs. a weight stability group. For the study, 96 older adults over age 65 were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a six-month low-calorie meal plan that included more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, plus adequate calcium and vitamin D; or a weight stability group targeting .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is the current, government-recommended dietary allowance. The researchers decided not to include exercise, because many older adults are unlikely to perform the volume and intensity of exercise needed to preserve muscle and bone.

Here's what the researchers found:Previously, Beavers has conducted smaller studies for which she oversaw the planning and preparation of healthy high-protein, low-calorie meals for weight-loss study participants. However, the size of the recent trial sent her in search of a simpler, cost-effective solution.

In this case, the researchers had the weight-loss group follow a high-protein, nutritionally complete, reduced-calorie meal plan that included the use of four meal replacements, two meals of lean protein and vegetables prepared by the participants, and one healthy snack; however, Beavers said any high-protein, nutritious low-calorie meal plan would likely work.

The weight-stability group attended health education classes and were encouraged to maintain their baseline diet and normal activity. Beavers said participants complied with their assigned intervention.

Jason Pharmaceuticals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Medifast Inc., provided a grant and an in-kind donation of the products given to the research participants. Additional funding was provided by the Wake Forest Claude D. Pepper Center Older Americans Independence Center and a National Institute on Aging career development award to Beavers (K01 AG047921).

The research team included Amy Collins, Sherri Ford, Beverly Nesbit, Lauren Shaver and Jessica Sheedy of Wake Forest's Department of Health and Exercise Science; Arlynn Baker, Daniel Beavers, Rebecca Henderson, Denise Houston, Mary Lyles, Stephen Kritchevsky, and Ashley Weaver of the Wake Forest School of Medicine; Monica Serra and Jessica Kelleher of Emory University School of Medicine; Sue Shapses of Rutgers University; and Linda Arterburn, Christopher Coleman and Jessica Kiel of Medifast.
-end-
The studies:

- "Effect of an Energy-Restricted, Nutritionally Complete, Higher Protein Meal Plan on Body Composition and Mobility in Older Adults with Obesity," Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, published online in advance of print June 21, 2018

- "Effect of a Hypocaloric, Nutritionally Complete, Higher-Protein Meal Plan on Bone Density and Quality in Older Adults With Obesity," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online in advance of print Jan. 9, 2019 -

"Effect of Intentional Weight Loss on Mortality Biomarkers in Older Adults With Obesity," Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, published online in advance of print Aug. 20, 2018

- "Effects of a Hypocaloric, Nutritionally Complete, Higher Protein Meal Plan on Regional Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Biomarkers in Older Adults with Obesity," Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, published online in advance of print Feb. 12, 2019

Wake Forest University

Related Weight Loss Articles from Brightsurf:

Weight loss shouldn't be the goal of PE
For adults, the goal of exercise is often to shed some pounds, but new research from the University of Georgia suggests the objective should be different for kids.

How long should you fast for weight loss?
Two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, are effective for weight loss, according to a new study.

Green tea may help with weight loss efforts
In an analysis published in Phytotherapy Research of randomized controlled trials, individuals who consumed green tea experienced a significant decline in body weight and body mass index.

Changing weight-loss strategies, attempts
The proportion of adults who tried to lose weight in the previous year increased from 1999 to 2016 but the findings of this observational study suggest the results may have been unsatisfactory.

Quality of life changes after weight loss
Obesity increases a number of adverse health consequences including reduced health-related quality of life.

Weight loss medicines underutilized by veterans
Despite the availability of new weight management medications and several clinical guidelines recommending their use as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for obesity, a new study has found that their use is extremely low (about one percent) among eligible Veterans.

Is the most effective weight-loss strategy really that hard?
Dietary self-monitoring is the best predictor of weight-loss success. But the practice is viewed as so unpleasant and time-consuming, many would-be weight-losers won't adopt it.

Study: Faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits
Losing weight slowly or quickly won't tip the scale in your favor when it comes to overall health, according to new research.

Mindfulness training may help support weight loss
Mindfulness training may improve the effectiveness of intensive weight management programs, according to a small study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Does weight loss before surgery provide benefits?
For obese and overweight patients, it is common for various surgical procedures to be deferred until they have lost weight through diet and exercise.

Read More: Weight Loss News and Weight Loss Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.