Can a Low Protein Diet Really Help You Lose Weight?

by Daisy

Recent claims on social media, particularly platforms like TikTok, suggest that very low protein diets may be beneficial for weight loss and longevity. These claims, however, contradict established scientific evidence. This article delves into the misconceptions about low protein diets and provides expert insights into the role of protein in weight management and overall health.

Misinformation on Social Media

Content creators on social media have been spreading the idea that low protein diets can lead to weight loss and increased longevity. One popular claim is that since human breast milk contains low protein levels and supports rapid growth in infants, adults also need minimal protein. However, this analogy is flawed. Human breast milk has only about 1% protein, not the 6% some influencers claim, and its composition is tailored specifically for infants’ needs, not adults.


Expert Opinions on Protein and Weight Loss

Importance of Protein

Satiety and Muscle Mass: Adequate protein intake promotes satiety, helping to reduce overall calorie intake. It also supports muscle mass development, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism.


Balanced Diet: A diet incorporating both plant-based and animal-based proteins is optimal for health, providing a range of essential nutrients.


High Protein Diets

High protein diets have been widely recognized for their benefits in weight loss and overall health:

Promotes Satiety: Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

Preserves Muscle Mass: During weight loss, maintaining muscle mass is essential to prevent metabolic slowdown.

Increases Thermogenesis: Protein intake can boost metabolism through the thermic effect of food.

Risks of Low Protein Diets

Muscle Loss: Inadequate protein can lead to muscle atrophy, particularly in older adults, which can decrease metabolism and impair physical function.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Low protein intake may result in deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and zinc.

Weakened Immune Function: Proteins are crucial for a robust immune system, and insufficient intake can impair immune responses.

Research Insights

Longevity Studies

Animal Studies: Some studies in rodents have shown that protein restriction might extend lifespan, but these findings are not directly applicable to humans.

Human Studies: Research in humans indicates that low protein intake may increase the risk of sarcopenia and other health issues, particularly in older adults.

Weight Loss and Diet Composition

Dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine notes that while low protein diets might lead to initial weight loss due to overall calorie reduction, this approach is not sustainable. High protein diets are more effective in promoting long-term weight management by preserving muscle mass and enhancing satiety.

Healthy Protein Sources

Animal Proteins: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy provide complete proteins with all essential amino acids. They are beneficial for muscle maintenance but should be consumed in moderation.

Plant Proteins: Beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are excellent sources of protein, often lower in saturated fat and beneficial for heart health.

Processed Proteins: Protein bars and shakes can be convenient but should not replace whole foods. Choose options with minimal added sugars and artificial ingredients.


Daily Intake: Most adults should aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, with higher needs for athletes and older adults (up to 1.0 to 2.0 grams per kilogram).

Balanced Diet: Include protein at every meal and mix plant and animal protein sources to ensure a variety of nutrients.


A very low protein diet is not recommended for health or sustainable weight loss. Adequate protein intake supports satiety, muscle maintenance, and overall health. A balanced diet with both plant-based and animal-based protein sources is the best approach to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.


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