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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 15:03 GMT
High protein diet 'under attack'
Meat counter
People on the diet are advised to eat high amounts of protein
The benefits of high-protein diets have again been questioned.

The Total Wellbeing Diet, similar to the Atkins diet, advises eating around twice the daily amount of protein in a typical Western diet.

But an editorial in the magazine Nature suggests the diet only helps a small number of people.

However the scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who wrote the book, stand by their work.

Quick fix approaches may be harmful to your health
Helen Stracey, British Dietetic Association

The book has become a best-seller, selling half a million copies in Australia since May.

It went on sale in the UK in September, and is due to be launched in the US next year.

The diet recommends around 30 to 35% of a person's daily energy intake should come from protein, compared to 15% in the typical Western diet.

To do this, Manny Noakes and Peter Clifton who devised the eating plan, recommend eating more meat and fish at lunch and dinner.

It differs from Atkins because followers are allowed to eat small amounts of carbohydrates and encouraged to stock up on fruit and vegetables.

Calorie intake

The authors based the diet on several studies, including one of 100 overweight women which they carried out themselves.

Half the women were put onto the high-protein diet while the rest had a high-carbohydrate eating plan.

Both diets contained the same amount of calories, and women in both groups lost the same amount of weight.

But the researchers said women with high triglyceride levels - a marker of insulin resistance - shed far more weight on the high-protein diet.

Insulin resistance happens when the body cannot respond properly to the insulin being produced, leading to difficulty in regulating blood glucose levels.

The Nature editorial said: "The diet is being promoted as beneficial for everyone, whereas the published research indicates that it is superior to a high-carbohydrate diet only for a sub-population of overweight women with symptoms of metabolic disorder."

Patrick Holford, of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London, said: "The main trial showed no difference in weight loss compared with a conventional diet."

But a spokeswoman for the CSIRO said it had always published books on its scientific work and put its name to publications, and this was "no exception".

"The decision to publish was in response to many consumers asking for further details of the diet."

'Be more active'

Helen Stracey, of the British Dietetic Association, said excessive intake of protein was not recommended.

She added: "The proportion of protein in a reducing diet will typically be around 20% and should provide a minimum of 15% at least.

"Starchy carbohydrates such as bread cereals, pasta and potatoes should provide the bulk of each meal as they help to provide a sense of fullness and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day."

Ms Stracey added: "The only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than you need, or to use up more calories by being more active.

"Resorting to unbalanced, quick fix approaches may be harmful to your health, and is unlikely to lead to permanent weight loss, because as soon as you come 'off the diet' you are likely to go back to your original eating habits."


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