The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet

Science behind the diet

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The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet was created after accumulating evidence from several clinical trials conducted at CSIRO.

The more traditional low fat high carbohydrate diets for weight loss had been challenged by alternative dietary approaches such as very low carbohydrate (Atkins), moderately high protein (ZONE) or low glycemic index diets.

However, the emerging body of CSIRO and international research confirmed that varying the protein to carbohydrate ratio during weight loss appeared to have a number of subtle benefits which may result in greater fat loss and sparing of lean body mass.

Man seated at kitchen table as part of clinical diet trials.

Clinical trials helped prove the science behind the Total Wellbeing Diet.

CSIRO has conducted several of the largest studies showing that higher protein dietary patterns for weight management have metabolic advantages over high carbohydrate patterns in overweight people.

The results clearly showed health benefits and significant weight loss from a diet higher in proteins and low in fats and the Total Wellbeing Diet was born.

It highlighted the successful conversion of science into a popularised form.

How the Total Wellbeing Diet was researched

Researchers at CSIRO studied 100 overweight and obese women on two different diets over a period of 12 weeks.

The women were divided into two groups. The first group was placed on a high protein, low fat diet and the second group was given a high carbohydrate, low fat diet. Both diets were equivalent in terms of calorie intake.

As the study progressed, researchers assessed the amount of body weight and actual body fat that was lost, and precisely where the fat was lost from.

This is critical because fat lost from around the tummy significantly lowers the risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome (also known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome or Syndrome X), which is fast becoming the disease of the new millennium as Australia's obesity rates escalate.

Syndrome X is a collection of abnormalities indicated by:

  • excess fat around the tummy
  • high blood pressure
  • high glucose levels
  • high blood fats called triglycerides.

The diets were also assessed for various nutrients such as Vitamin B12, bone turnover markers and disease risk factors like LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

The diets were equivalent in terms of calorie intake, but the balance of protein: fat: carbohydrate was different. The high protein diet consisted of 34 per cent protein, 20 per cent fat and 46 per cent carbohydrate. The high carbohydrate diet consisted of 17 per cent protein, 20 per cent fat and 63 per cent carbohydrate.

What the researchers found

The study found that women with signs of Syndrome X lost more weight – and twice the amount of body fat – on a higher-protein, low-fat plan than women on a high-carbohydrate, low-fat plan.

The Total Wellbeing Diet will help most people to lose weight safely and enjoyably because it encourages eating a wide variety of food types – in the right proportions.

These women also showed health benefits because of reduced risk factors relating to heart disease and Type II diabetes.

Protein-rich foods, particularly lean red meats, are rich sources of nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to keep us functioning properly.

The diet also features healthy fats from fish, oils and spreads, wholegrain bread and cereals as well as abundant vegetables. No food group is excluded.

Because the diet contains moderate slow release carbohydrates it helps to control blood sugar levels.

The meal plans followed by the study participants:

High protein, low fat meal plan

  • cereal (35g)
  • low fat milk (250ml)
  • wholemeal bread (2 slices)
  • fruit (2)
  • beef/lamb (200g - dinner)
  • chicken/fish/meat (100g - lunch)
  • vegetables (2.5 cups)
  • diet yoghurt (200g)
  • canola oil (3 tsp)
  • wine 2 glasses/week (optional).

High carbohydrate, low fat meal plan

  • cereal (35g)
  • skim milk (250ml)
  • wholemeal bread (3 slices)
  • fruit (3)
  • chicken/pork/fish (80g)
  • vegetables (2.5 cups)
  • canola oil (3 tsp)
  • pasta/rice (120g cooked)
  • low fat biscuits (3)
  • wine 2 glasses/week (optional).

The Total Wellbeing Diet will help most people to lose weight safely and enjoyably because it encourages eating a wide variety of food types – in the right proportions. However, the diet should be combined with regular exercise to truly achieve total wellbeing.

For more information, download our PowerPoint presentation on High Protein Low Carbohydrate Diets: Targeting Who Benefits or read the 2004 scientific paper from the International Journal of Obesity – Long-term effects of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet on weight control and cardiovascular risk markers in obese hyperinsulinemic subjects [external link].


Noakes M, Clifton P. 2005. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. Penguin, Australia. 225 pp.

Noakes M, Clifton P. 2006. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Book 2. Penguin, Australia. 240 pp.

CSIRO. 2010. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Recipe Book. Penguin, Australia. 208 pp.