Bariatric patients constantly hear about the paramount value of protein in achieving their post-surgery weight loss goals. But is protein really all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s a closer look at research indicating why protein matters so much, along with a closer look at just how much protein bariatric patients need.
Protein is linked with increased satiety, enhanced weight loss, improved nutritional status, and better body composition among post-op patients, according to 'Dietary Protein Intake and Bariatric Surgery Patients: A Review,' published in Obesity Surgery: the Journal of Metabolic Surgery and Allied Care.
At the same time, ”Dietary protein ingestion among this population tends to be inadequate, potentially leading to a loss of lean body mass, reduced metabolic rates, and physiological damage,” researchers report.
In other words, despite the significant body of evidence pointing to protein as the postoperative imperative for both weight loss and overall health and wellness, many bariatric patients fall short of meeting their protein needs.
The general Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) indicates that protein intake should account for between 10 and 35 percent of the total calories consumed. For “protein-rich” diets, the minimum protein intake rises to 25 percent.
In the case of low-calorie diets, however, this critical macronutrient should constitute an even higher percentage of total calories with protein consumption recommendations based on body weight.
While the specifics vary from researcher to researcher, including daily protein consumption ranging between 1.5 g/kg ideal weight and 2.1 g/kg ideal weight for a total consumption of 60 to 120 grams of protein daily, the theme is the same: “These recommendations are consistent with the view that bariatric surgery patients require a higher protein intake than the DRI specified quantity,” concludes the Obesity Surgery article.
“Nutritionists have a responsibility to select the most suitable protein supplement for bariatric patients given that the various forms of protein supplements differ from one another with respect to the nutrition they provide,” say researchers. (The same applies to the bariatric diet at large.) So not only are nutritionists and dietitians tasked with making sure weight loss patients get enough protein, they must also educate them about eating the right bariatric high protein foods.
Which begs the question: Which proteins are better than others? Says Today’s Dietitian, “Overwhelmingly, the literature favors plant protein over animal protein for health benefits. A large Harvard study of health care professionals found higher animal-derived protein intake to be positively associated with cardiovascular mortality and higher plant protein intake to be inversely associated with cardiovascular mortality. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein sources.”
Furthermore, the benefits of a protein-rich diet aren’t limited to weight loss and maintenance. Continues Today’s Dietitian, “In addition to possibly promoting weight loss, dietary protein low in saturated fat that replaces carbohydrates (especially refined sources) may provide heart health benefits.”
But no amount of high-protein eating is going to be an effective weight loss measure if calorie intake isn’t kept in check, which is why finding low-calorie, bariatric high protein food options is also essential. As James Hill, PhD, director of the Colorado Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, told Today’s Dietitian, 'Following a diet over time is difficult. With any diet, compliance is essential.”
Again, nutritionists, dietitians and other healthcare providers can help bridge the gap between bariatric patients and compliance by pointing them in the direction of optimal bariatric food products.
The good news? Today’s bariatric food options are better than ever when it comes to maximizing the benefits of a protein-rich diet for weight loss patients. For example, not only is Achieve from Rational Foods packed with 20 grams of protein, but each pouch contains just 160 calories each. It’s also plant-based and made with real, whole, organic ingredients — all adding up to invaluable partnership for dietitians looking to support both the weight loss goals and overall health needs of their post-op patients.