Protein diet, exercise  aids weight loss

A high-protein diet can make regular  exercise more effective for women trying to lose weight — helping to build  muscle while trimming body fat, a small study suggests.

In a four-month  period, the protein-rich diet along with exercise significantly reduced  abdominal fat and triglycerides, risk factors for heart disease, according to  findings published in the August issue of the Journal of  Nutrition.

"People thinking about doing exercise want a return on that  investment," said Donald Layman, a professor of nutrition at the University of  Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus, who led the study. "Our way of looking at  it is the protein-rich diet basically boosts the benefit of doing  exercise."

The study was largely funded by beef and dairy interests. A  nutritionist not involved with the study said that what the research really  showed is that exercise is important for losing fat and preserving  muscle.

"That's exactly what we want to have happen in a weight  reduction diet," said Roberta Anding, a clinical dietitian at the Baylor  University College of Medicine who works with the Houston Texans football  team.

She cautioned that diets should not be protein-dominant and noted  that the average American eats "more protein than we need to begin  with."

Many high-protein diets, such as the Atkins plan, have fallen  from favor with consumers in recent months. Layman's diet for the study was  lower in fat and called for more fruits and vegetables than the Atkins  diet.

The research was funded by the Illinois Council on Food and  Agricultural Research, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Kraft Foods  and the Beef Board.

Forty-eight women took part in the study, eating  about 1,700 calories per day. Half ate a diet rich in meat and dairy while  half ate a diet that contained more complex carbohydrates, such as rice or  pasta.

Each group was then split between women who were asked to walk  30 minutes a day, five days a week, and women who were required to walk at  least that much and participate in two 30-minute weightlifting sessions per  week.

The low-exercise group was voluntary and averaged less than 100  minutes per week. The other group was supervised and averaged more than 200  minutes of exercise per week, Layman said.

All the women who exercised  at least 200 minutes per week lost about the same amount of weight whether  they ate a high-protein or a high-carb diet. But almost all the weight lost by  those who ate the protein diet was fat, while almost one-third of the weight  lost by those on the high-carb diet was muscle.

While the research  involved only women, there is no reason to believe that men would not have the  same results, Layman said.

Shirley Washington swears by Layman's diet.  Even though she is still overweight at 267 pounds, she has lost 90 pounds  while following it.

"It's been really easy," said Washington, a  55-year-old Chicago grandmother. "I tell anyone if you can't make it on this  eating plan, you can't make  it."
Copyright  2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be  published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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