Contribution by: Jörg Zehetner, MD, Professor (USC)
MMM, FACS, FEBS (hon.)

Anyone who has ever taken a closer look at the topic of “losing weight” will sooner or later have come across the recommendation of a high-protein diet. Supermarkets are full of modern and mostly expensive high-protein products aimed at both athletes and people who want to lose weight. But can these products really help, is a high-protein diet good for weight loss at all and isn’t there something better? This medical article by Helvetius Holding AG, which is also available as a podcast in several languages on Deezer and Spotify, explains this.

Why a high protein diet?

From a scientific point of view, a higher protein diet can indeed be useful for losing body weight. If the diet contains more protein, however, the proportion of carbohydrates and possibly fats must decrease at the same time. Otherwise, the calorie content would be too high and the body would gain even more weight. A high-protein diet is suitable for weight loss, as proteins are very filling. Secondly, it leads to weight loss really coming from a lower body fat percentage. If the calorie intake is only reduced by eating less of all nutrients, the body will mainly lose muscle mass. The body also needs protein to build muscle, which is also part of a comprehensive weight loss strategy.

Are high-protein products from the supermarket a good idea?

Many of the high-protein products contain little or no more protein than simple dairy products such as low-fat curd cheese, cream cheese or natural yoghurt. For some of the products, the main difference is only the higher price for the high-protein marketing. Other products are loaded with other ingredients such as sweeteners or flavourings that are solely for taste and are often unhealthy. High-protein products are therefore not always worthwhile as a high-quality source of protein; the price-performance ratio in particular is often not right here.

Which foods provide enough protein?

Ideal sources of protein in a healthy diet are dairy products, fish, eggs and pulses. Nutrition experts advise that 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be consumed daily through food. Overweight people should base the amount of protein on their target normal weight and not on their current weight. Otherwise the calorie content is too high and losing weight does not work, because proteins also provide energy. It is also important to eat three meals a day and not all the time. Then the body has time in between to break down fat. Without these breaks, the insulin level in the blood does not drop and a high insulin level suppresses fat burning.

Protein-rich nutrition with taste

A sensible change of diet does not mean going hungry. Quite the opposite. Those who want to eat healthily can certainly do so with taste. For example, a gourmet cheese (such as Le Gruyère) is excellent as a tasty source of protein. Add a colourful salad with tuna or a vegetable mix with some lean meat and you have a healthy and delicious meal on the table.

If protein shakes, then the right ones!

In contrast to the high-protein products from the supermarket, some protein shakes can support weight loss as a so-called formula diet over a set period of time. In order for the weight reduction to be successful in the long term, a doctor should accompany the project. A nutritionist can make sure that a formulary diet really makes sense in the individual case and that suitable formulary products are used. Not every protein shake has an appropriate composition of the macronutrients protein, fat, carbohydrates and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. If other illnesses are already present or if medication is being taken, a doctor will also take this into account when planning the weight loss programme. He can also measure blood values and body fat percentage during the diet and optimise the formula diet plan if necessary. For example, in some cases, switching to a meal replacement strategy, where one protein shake replaces only up to two main meals per day, could help. In addition, a doctor makes sure that a formula diet does not last too long or too short and that the amount of energy taken in is suitable. If the dosage is too high, weight loss will fail, while if it is too low, hunger will not be satisfied sufficiently and the diet will not be followed through or the body will instead lose muscle mass.

Formula diet only with medical supervision

If the BMI is over 30 kg/m2, then no independent attempts at weight loss should be made: An appointment with a doctor is necessary. For a BMI over 35 kg/m2, the best option, after a detailed assessment, is bariatric surgery (obesity surgery).
For patients in between, there is the possibility of conservative methods:Unfortunately, it is not easy to do all this on your own. Equally important is the long-term change in diet after the formula diet and more exercise. If both are missing, the yo-yo effect is already pre-programmed. Therefore, a doctor should also accompany the phase afterwards. So don’t just stock up on the next best protein shakes when you go shopping, but rather make an appointment with a doctor who specialises in obesity treatments. However, if you only want to lose a few kilos, you should focus on a healthier, somewhat calorie-reduced diet and more exercise. Formula diets are aimed more at people who are more overweight or have a fatty liver.

The protein shakes from Bodymed with weight loss programme

A good example of a weight loss programme with a formula diet is the Bodymed nutrition concept developed by doctors. It offers a medically guided course programme and matching protein shakes that have been put together according to scientific findings. The professional associations German Obesity Society (DAG), German Diabetes Society (DDG), German Nutrition Society (DGE) and the German Society for Nutritional Medicine (DGE). (DGE) and the German Society for Nutritional Medicine e. V. (DGEM) recognise Bodymed as an appropriate weight loss programme in their guidelines. (DGEM) recognise Bodymed as an appropriate weight reduction programme in their guidelines.

Nutrition is part of the aftercare for obesity surgery

Under certain conditions, it is hardly possible to bring the body mass index (BMI) into the normal range under one’s own efforts. Especially with a BMI over 35, an overweight operation such as a gastric bypass or the formation of a tube stomach may be advisable. However, this also means that patients have to be actively involved for the rest of their lives. So a healthier lifestyle and dietary changes are also crucial after obesity surgery. On the one hand, this is the only way to achieve sustainable weight loss. Secondly, there must not be any nutrient deficiencies, which can occur after obesity surgery due to the reduced food intake and the changes in digestion. Depending on the type of surgery, a deficiency of protein, calcium, zinc or vitamin B12, for example, is relatively common. Therefore, after such an operation, patients should compensate for a deficiency with appropriate dietary supplements and consume at least 60 grams of protein per day or 1.5 grams per kilogram of normal weight.

Professional support after obesity surgery

However, patients should not be left alone with this, because the changes in lifestyle and diet are very individual and have to be adjusted every now and then in the course of life. That is why professional aftercare is a high priority at the Centre for Bariatric Surgery ZfbC in Bern. In addition, complications can arise at any time and further interventions or other medical measures may be necessary. With good follow-up care, this is noticed early on and the treating doctors can react quickly.

The following also applies to a fatty liver: less carbohydrates and more protein

Many people associate fatty liver with excessive alcohol consumption. However, there is also the clinical picture of a non-alcoholic fatty liver, for which a wrong eating pattern and too little exercise are usually responsible. The body stores excess energy in the form of fat not visibly under the skin layers, but in the internal organs such as the liver. Therefore, although non-alcoholic fatty liver often occurs together with obesity, it does not always occur. In addition, a fatty liver can be the reason why weight loss attempts fail. A fatty liver leads to insulin resistance, which on the one hand promotes the storage of fat and thus weight gain. On the other hand, it can block the burning of fat. In order to successfully treat a fatty liver, first and foremost, those affected must do something themselves. Since, in addition to a lack of exercise, a diet too rich in carbohydrates and sugar in particular causes non-alcoholic fatty liver, the diet should contain fewer carbohydrates, more proteins and fewer calories overall. The principle is similar to losing weight. Here, too, those affected should seek professional help.

A healthy liver promotes a healthy life
A healthy liver promotes a healthy life

Liver fasting with advice from the ZfbC

Liver fasting according to Dr. Worm with the Hepafast products from Bodymed is a good companion on the way to a defatted liver and, like the Bodymed programme mentioned above, is based on scientifically sound findings. The Hepafast products are specially formulated for liver fasting, which is why weight loss can certainly be a welcome side effect, but is not the primary goal. Individual medical advice on liver fasting according to Dr. Worm is very happily provided by every clinic within Helvetius Holding AG, of which ZfbC is one.

Where can I find more information about dietary changes and losing weight?

If you would like to find out more about a suitable diet for losing weight, after obesity surgery or for fatty liver, listen to our podcast and read the newspaper. There, leading experts share their knowledge and explain, among other things, how you can successfully fight obesity and why this is so important in the first place. New scientific findings on the topics also have a firm place in it.

Conclusion: Cover your protein needs with pleasure and be accompanied by experts

When losing weight, it is helpful to pay attention to the protein content of the diet. High-protein products from the supermarket are not recommended, however. Instead, people who want to lose weight should get the amount of protein they need from simple dairy products, fish and pulses. For example, the daily consumption of a La Gruyère in combination with vegetables or salad can already make a good contribution to a protein-rich and healthy diet. In certain cases, protein shakes can also be useful. But then they should be products that are approved by doctors. These include the protein shakes from Bodymed. Regardless of whether the Bodymed programme is to lead to a BMI in the normal range, an overweight operation is necessary or the liver needs to be defatted, the doctors at the ZfbC provide individual advice and accompany you on your way to a permanent normal weight.


Information events with live streams
Medical expertise at first hand

Zermatt: Backstage Hotel
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Arosa: Kulm Hotel & Alpin Spa
27. August. 2021 .

KREUZLINGEN: Talent-Campus Bodensee
22 October 2021

Helvetius Holding AG offers interesting specialist lectures on various topics at selected locations in Switzerland for referring physicians, medical laypersons and those affected. Conducted by Prof. Dr. Jörg Zehetner, these lectures not only offer in-depth knowledge from different focus areas, but also opportunities for further information. Disease patterns, diagnostic procedures and surgical techniques are presented as well as the forms of professional aftercare following surgical interventions. For those affected, such specialist lectures offer an increased degree of security before the planned intervention, and for those interested in medicine and doctors, the information events hold a plus in knowledge and experience.

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