The Science Behind Losing Weight On a High-Protein Diet

Evidence is growing about the value of the amino acid leucine, one of protein's major building blocks found in meat and dairy products. Not only can a leucine-rich diet boost the benefits of exercise, it can help you lose weight too.

Scientists suspected amino acids like leucine activate highly active mTOR enzymes in the hypothalamus, a sector of the brain that regulates appetite in humans and rats. After injecting a 1 microgram dose of leucine in the brains of rats near the hypothalamus, these animals ate 20 percent less food over the following day.

The results were far more dramatic after a 24-hour fasting: Rats not given a leucine injection gained three times more weight than those that received one.

Of course, scientists were quick to note their findings don't explain why some patients lose weight with the flawed Atkins Diet. Perhaps, consuming leucine-rich foods is a good match for their unique nutritional type, a regimen that helps you discover which foods your body burns best.

New Scientist May 11, 2006

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