Protein is essential in a healthy diet but, in postmenopausal women, it's doubly important, as muscle loss when losing weight is often more prevalent. Happily, a new University of Illinois study has discovered that adding protein into the diet not only holds hunger pangs at bay, it also keeps the amount of fat relative to muscle in better proportion.
"A higher-protein weight-loss diet is more protective of muscle," said Ellen Evans, a member of the university's Division of Nutritional Sciences. In the six-month study, 31 healthy, postmenopausal obese women were divided into two groups.
Each group followed a 1,400-calorie weight-loss diet, with one group receiving a powdered whey protein supplement twice a day. As well as being assessed for strength and balance, an MRI scan was used on the right thigh of each participant to measure changes in the muscle and fat volumes.
The results showed that those who ate more protein lost 3.9 % more weight and had a relative gain of 5.8 % more thigh muscle volume.
When a woman has less weight to carry, the effect is that she has better physical function, meaning she is also able to maintain mobility and independence for longer.