Protein is good. I've blogged a lot about the research showing that increasing protein intake (to about 80-100 grams per day for most women), while decreasing carbohydrate intake, is associated with feeling more full, losing more weight, having more energy, amongst other things. I'm not talking about low-carb diets or anything, just a subtle shift in what foods you eat during the day. For example, instead of a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, a scrambled egg on toast. Instead of pasta and sauce for dinner, fish tacos with side of spinach.
Case in point, a new study was just published where overweight and obese people were divided into 3 groups and asked to drink two beverages a day for 5 months. One group received beverages that were all carbohydrate. One group received beverages that were whey protein (one of the main proteins in milk). And the other group received beverages that were soy protein. They weren't told to try to lose weight or change anything else in their life; just to drink these beverages on two occasions a day.
After 5 months, one group gained weight, one group lost weight, and one group stayed the same. Care to guess what beverage did what???
Of course, the whey beverage led to weight loss! Not a lot (only 4 lbs), but remember these folks were not trying to lose weight. The carbohydrate beverage caused people to gain about 4 lbs and the soy beverage did not alter weight at all.
What to make of this? In my opinion, I think this means that whey definitely has an advantage over carbohydrates and maybe even soy in terms of making people feel more full. There may not be big differences in fullness in the short term, but over 5 months, whey may be just filling enough to cause people to consume fewer calories and slowly lose weight without even trying.
Here's something kind of cool to think about...most people gain, on average, 1-2 lbs per year as they age. What if eating more whey can prevent that from happening? Even more interesting...beverages tend to be less filling than foods in general. What would have happened if the study participants ate the whey versus drank the whey (like in cottage cheese or a sports bar)? Would they have lost more weight?
And it is because of these questions that I have a job. :)