High-protein (HP) diets have shown benefits in cardiometabolic markers such as insulin or triglycerides but the responsible mechanisms are not known. We aimed to assess the effect of three energy-restricted diets with different protein contents (20%, 27%, and 35%; ∼80% coming from animal source) on plasma adipokine concentration and its association with changes in cardiometabolic markers.
Seventy-six women (BMI 32.8 ± 2.93) were randomized to one of three calorie-reduced diets, with protein, 20%, 27%, or 35%; carbohydrates, 50%, 43%, or 35%; and fat, 30%, for 3 months. Plasma adipokine (leptin, resistin, adiponectin, and retinol-binding protein 4; RBP4) levels were assessed.
After 3 months, leptin concentration decreased in all groups without differences among them, while resistin levels remained unchanged. Adiponectin concentration heterogeneously changed in all groups (P for trend = 0.165) and resistin concentration did not significantly change. RPB4 significantly decreased by -17.5% (-31.7, -3.22) in 35%-protein diet (P for trend = 0.024 among diets). Triglycerides improved in women following the 35%-protein diet regardless of weight loss; RBP4 variation significantly influenced triglyceride concentration change by 24.9% and 25.9% when comparing 27%- and 35%- with 20%-protein diet, respectively.
A 35%-protein diet induced a decrease in RBP4 regardless of weight loss, which was directly associated with triglyceride concentration improvement. These findings suggest that HP diets improve the cardiometabolic profile, at least in part, through changes in adipokine secretion. Whether this beneficial effect of HP diet is due to improvements in hepatic or adipose tissue functionality should be elucidated.
The clinical trial has been registered in ClinicalTrials.gov (Identifier: NCT02160496).