DES MOINES – Eating protein, such as lean pork, in three daily meals could reduce late-night desires to eat, increase feelings of fullness and decrease distracting thoughts about food, according to two studies published in “Obesity,” the official journal of The Obesity Society.

Purdue Univ. researchers conducted two studies of overweight and obese men eating either a normal protein diet (14% of total calories from protein), or a hig-protein diet (25% of total calories from protein – the additional protein mostly from lean pork and eggs), with the protein equally divided between three or six meals per day. Calories and fat did not differ between the two diets.

In both studies, higher-protein diets were associated with greater levels of satiations during weight loss. In the longer-term study, this decreased late-night desires to eat. The researchers say these findings could ultimately reduce calorie intake and affect weight-loss success.

In the most recent study, 27 men ate a calorie-restricted diet for 12 weeks, while the other study looked at short-term effects of protein on hunger/appetite in 13 men fed controlled meals on four separate days.

"Our research shows that eating about a quarter of one's daily calories as lean pork and other high-quality proteins three times a day is a powerful dietary weapon for people seeking weight loss," said Dr. Heather Leidy, study lead and an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the Univ. of Missouri.

It's time to redefine 'high protein' eating for weight management, she added. “It does not mean limitless amounts of meat, fish and eggs,” she continued. “Instead, think a quarter of the plate roughly dedicated to a lean protein, like 3 oz. of pork tenderloin, for example. The rest of the plate can be fruits, vegetables and higher-fiber carbohydrates.”

Today's most popular cuts of pork contain 16% less total fat and 27% less saturated fat than they did 20 years ago, according to the National Pork Board. Cuts of pork that come from the loin – including chops and roasts – and 96% lean ground pork are the leanest cuts of pork available. Ounce-for-ounce, pork tenderloin is as lean as skinless chicken breast.