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A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass

Leo Treyzon1, Steve Chen1, Kurt Hong1, Eric Yan1, Catherine L Carpenter1, Gail Thames1, Susan Bowerman1, He-Jing Wang2, Robert Elashoff2 and Zhaoping Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, USA

2 Department of Biomathematics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2008, 7:23  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-7-23

Published: 27 August 2008



While high protein diets have been shown to improve satiety and retention of lean body mass (LBM), this study was designed to determine effects of a protein-enriched meal replacement (MR) on weight loss and LBM retention by comparison to an isocaloric carbohydrate-enriched MR within customized diet plans utilizing MR to achieve high protein or standard protein intakes.


Single blind, placebo-controlled, randomized outpatient weight loss trial in 100 obese men and women comparing two isocaloric meal plans utilizing a standard MR to which was added supplementary protein or carbohydrate powder. MR was used twice daily (one meal, one snack). One additional meal was included in the meal plan designed to achieve individualized protein intakes of either 1) 2.2 g protein/kg of LBM per day [high protein diet (HP)] or 2) 1.1 g protein/kg LBM/day standard protein diet (SP). LBM was determined using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). Body weight, body composition, and lipid profiles were measured at baseline and 12 weeks.


Eighty-five subjects completed the study. Both HP and SP MR were well tolerated, with no adverse effects. There were no differences in weight loss at 12 weeks (-4.19 ± 0.5 kg for HP group and -3.72 ± 0.7 kg for SP group, p > 0.1). Subjects in the HP group lost significantly more fat weight than the SP group (HP = -1.65 ± 0.63 kg; SP = -0.64 ± 0.79 kg, P = 0.05) as estimated by BIA. There were no significant differences in lipids nor fasting blood glucose between groups, but within the HP group a significant decrease in cholesterol and LDL cholesterol was noted at 12 weeks. This was not seen in the SP group.


Higher protein MR within a higher protein diet resulted in similar overall weight loss as the standard protein MR plan over 12 weeks. However, there was significantly more fat loss in the HP group but no significant difference in lean body mass. In this trial, subject compliance with both the standard and protein-enriched MR strategy for weight loss may have obscured any effect of increased protein on weight loss demonstrated in prior weight loss studies using whole food diets.