16 April 2018

Periodic low-protein diet and physical exercise in mice


Periodized dietary restriction, switching between a regular and calorie-reduced diet, is in fashion. Low-protein diet eaten ad libitum is shown to have similar beneficial effects on weight and metabolism in both mice and humans. However, it has not been investigated whether low-protein diet can also be eaten periodically to achieve these benefits. Furthermore, it is not known whether physical exercise, which also impacts weight and metabolism, has an additional effect in combination with low-protein diet.

To investigate this, we currently placed mice on ad libitum low (5% of total energy intake) or high (40%) protein diet, either constantly or periodized. Simultaneously, some of the mice had access to activity wheels in their cages where mice voluntarily ran many kilometers each night.

Our preliminary data indicate that periodically ad libitum low-protein diet is a viable alternative to chronic low-protein diet and, among other things, improves weight retention despite a higher total energy intake due to increased energy combustion and improves glucose metabolism. In addition, interesting interactions with physical exercise were observed in the periods where low protein diets were not consumed, including better weight retention.

The perspective is that follow-up on these studies in humans could lead to new health-promoting and practical diet and training strategies that are more realistic to implement in the broad population.

Financed by

Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Chinese Scholarship Council.


Zhencheng Li, ZLi@nexs.ku.dk
Thomas E. Jensen, TEJensen@nexs.ku.dk