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Whey protein and essential amino acids promote the reduction of adipose tissue and increased muscle protein synthesis during caloric restriction-induced weight loss in elderly, obese individuals

Robert H Coker1*, Sharon Miller2, Scott Schutzler1, Nicolaas Deutz1 and Robert R Wolfe1

Author affiliations

1 Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity, Little Rock, AR, USA

2 Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Healthspan, LLC, Little Rock, AR, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:105  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-105

Published: 11 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Excess adipose tissue and sarcopenia presents a multifaceted clinical challenge that promotes morbidity and mortality in the obese, elderly population. Unfortunately, the mortality risks of muscle loss may outweigh the potential benefits of weight loss in the elderly. We have previously demonstrated the effectiveness of whey protein and essential amino acids towards the preservation of lean tissue, even under the conditions of strict bedrest in the elderly.

Methods

In the context of caloric restriction-based weight loss, we hypothesized that a similar formulation given as a meal replacement (EAAMR) would foster the retention of lean tissue through an increase in the skeletal muscle fractional synthesis rate (FSR). We also proposed that EAAMR would promote the preferential loss of adipose tissue through the increased energy cost of skeletal muscle FSR. We recruited and randomized 12 elderly individuals to an 8 week, caloric restriction diet utilizing equivalent caloric meal replacements (800 kcal/day): 1) EAAMR or a 2) competitive meal replacement (CMR) in conjunction with 400 kcal of solid food that totaled 1200 kcal/day designed to induce 7% weight loss. Combined with weekly measurements of total body weight and body composition, we also measured the acute change in the skeletal muscle FSR to EAAMR and CMR.

Results

By design, both groups lost ~7% of total body weight. While EAAMR did not promote a significant preservation of lean tissue, the reduction in adipose tissue was greater in EAAMR compared to CMR. Interestingly, these results corresponded to an increase in the acute skeletal muscle protein FSR.

Conclusion

The provision of EAAMR during caloric restriction-induced weight loss promotes the preferential reduction of adipose tissue and the modest loss of lean tissue in the elderly population.

Keywords:
Obesity; Fat; Protein