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Higher Protein Diet Helps Keep Hunger Away

Animal studies illuminate mechanism that boosts hormone controlling weight

TUESDAY, Sept. 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Eating more protein can help increase levels of a hunger-fighting hormone called peptide YY (PYY), British scientists report.

Previous research found that injections of PYY could reduce food intake by a third in both normal-weight and obese people.

"We've now found that increasing the protein content of the diet augments the body's own PYY, helping to reduce hunger and aid weight loss," study leader Rachel Batterham, of University College London, said in a prepared statement.

In research with obese and normal-weight people, Batterham and her colleagues found that boosting the amount of protein in the diet stimulated greater release of PYY in the body than either high-fat or high-carbohydrate meals, resulting in a greater reduction of hunger.

Further investigation in mice found that high-protein diets increased the rodents' PYY levels and reduced the number of calories they consumed. Mice fed a high-protein diet also produced more PYY and gained less weight than mice fed the usual amount of protein.

Batterham's team also found that genetically modified mice unable to produce PYY ate more and became extremely obese. These mice were resistant to the effects of a high-protein diet, which demonstrates a direct link between protein and PYY, the scientists concluded.

When the genetically modified mice were treated with PYY, they lost weight.

"The findings show that PYY deficiency can cause obesity and that PYY appears to mediate the beneficial effects of increased protein-content diets," Batterham said. "One potential weight-loss strategy is therefore to increase the satiating power of the diet and promote weight loss through the addition of dietary protein -- harnessing our own satiety system."

She said much more research is needed before any particular high-protein diet could be recommended. Batterham emphasized that any such diet would not resemble the Atkins diet, which is high in both saturated fat and protein.

The findings were published in the September issue of Cell Metabolism.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about weight control.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Sept. 5, 2006
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