Newswise — Washington D.C. – A study of over 200 adults found that diet quality improved when they ate more protein. Experts recommend eating protein when on a weight loss diet in order to preserve muscle.

The overweight middle-aged and older adults in the study who ate more protein food when trying to diet also ate more green vegetables.

The study appeared in the journal Obesity and was conducted by Rutgers University researchers with support from the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences. It is a further analysis of long-standing work funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The study’s findings may lead to changes in how health professionals counsel for weight management as protein intake appears to be linked to other food choices. Previous to this study, diet quality while attempting to lose weight on a higher protein diet had not been carefully examined.

Selecting higher protein intake during weight loss efforts “improves diet quality, largely owing to consumption of low-fat protein sources, greater intake of green vegetables, and reduced intake of refined grains and added sugar, to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” according to the study.

"It's somewhat remarkable that a self-selected, slightly higher protein intake during dieting is accompanied by higher intake of green vegetables, and reduced intake of refined grains and added sugar," said Sue Shapses, author of the study and a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "But that's precisely what we found."

To guard against study participants underestimating intake, the scientists analyzed 10 food records to confirm intake and worked with the subjects to accurately report valid results.

Exploring the link between the quality of our diet and protein intake while attempting to lose weight is key as more protein consumption is associated with “attenuated loss of lean body mass and other reported health benefits,” the study finds.

The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) is committed to leading positive change across the food and beverage ecosystem. This research above was supported by IAFNS Protein Committee. IAFNS is a 501(c)(3) science-focused nonprofit uniquely positioned to mobilize government, industry and academia to drive, fund and lead actionable research. For more information, visit


Journal Link: Obesity