Strength training may lower health risks of high-protein diet: Study

San Francisco: Researchers have said that progressive strength training using resistance could protect against the harmful effects of a high-protein diet.

According to the study published in the scientific journal eLife, protein consumption is generally regarded as beneficial in terms of promoting muscle growth and strength, particularly when combined with exercise. However, in sedentary people, too much protein can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and death.

To examine the possibility that exercise can protect against the detrimental effects of a high-protein diet, the researchers used a progressive resistance-based strength training programme in mice.

“We know that low-protein diets and diets with reduced levels of specific amino acids promote healthspan and lifespan in animals, and that the short-term restriction of protein improves the health of metabolically unhealthy, adult humans,” explained lead author Michaela Trautman, Research Assistant at the University of Wisconsin, US.

The mice were divided into two groups — one fed a low-protein diet (7 per cent of calories from protein) and the other fed a high-protein diet (36 per cent of calories from protein).

For three months, the animals pulled a cart carrying an increasing load of weight down a track three times per week, or they pulled an identical cart with no load.

The researchers compared the body composition, weight and metabolic measurements, such as blood glucose, of the different groups.

The results showed that the high-protein diet impaired metabolic health in sedentary mice pulling no weight; these mice gained excess fat mass compared to the low-protein diet mice. But in the mice pulling the increasing weight, a high-protein diet led to muscle growth especially in the forearm, and protected the animals from gaining fat, according to the study.

However, the exercise did not protect the mice from the effects of high protein on blood sugar control.

While the study’s claims were backed by solid evidence, the researchers noted a few limitations.

According to them, the use of mice may limit the findings’ applicability to humans due to inherent physiological differences.

The findings would also be strengthened further by the inclusion of a direct investigation into the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for the observed results.


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