New research published in Obesity Science & Practice shows that lean beef, as part of a healthy and higher-protein diet, can help people lose weight while maintaining muscle and a healthy heart.
The "Beef WISE Study: Beef’s Role in Weight Improvement, Satisfaction & Energy," conducted at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Health & Wellness Center with a research grant from the beef checkoff, adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that lean beef can contribute to a healthy weight loss diet.
While the popularity of higher-protein diets has grown considerably, there is often guidance telling people to limit red meat as a protein source. However, few studies have compared different high-quality protein sources to understand their effectiveness in a weight loss or maintenance diet.
Dr. Drew Sayer and his colleagues at the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center sought to understand the effectiveness of lean beef compared to other protein sources on measures of health — such as weight loss and muscle mass maintenance — in a higher-protein diet, as well as the impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
The "Beef WISE Study" included 99 overweight or obese adults in a comprehensive weight management program called State of Slim. For 16 weeks, they emphasized behavioral strategies to make lasting, healthful changes in diet and physical activity to promote optimal health and wellness.
In addition to regularly participating in moderate-intensity exercise, study participants were separated into two groups that followed the higher-protein diet. One group consumed four or more servings of lean beef each week, and the other group was restricted from eating red meat. Subjects in both groups lost equal amounts of bodyweight and fat mass while preserving muscle.
“A key finding of this study is that 90-95% of the weight lost came from fat, not muscle,” Sayer pointed out. “This shows that lean beef doesn’t have to be restricted in a higher-protein diet and is just as effective as other protein choices in supporting healthy weight loss and leaner bodies.”
All study participants, including those who consumed lean beef four or more times a week as part of the healthy, higher-protein diet in combination with exercise, showed improvements in their total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure metrics, indicating that lean beef did not negatively affect their heart health.
“Losing weight is not easy. Neither is maintaining a healthy weight, particularly as we age. We know people succeed most often when they make small changes they can stick with,” said Dr. Shalene McNeill, executive director of the Human Nutrition Research Program of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., a contractor to the beef checkoff. “This study is great news for people who enjoy beef but might have been told to avoid it while following weight loss diets. It underscores, once again, lean beef can be part of a healthy, higher-protein diet for weight loss.”