Singer Chaka Khan
Singer Chaka Khan performs onstage during Fox's 'American Idol 2012' results show at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Chaka Khan’s weight loss has been stirring up conversation, most notably recently when the legendary singer performed at the American Idol season finale in a revealing bronze catsuit. The slimmer curves sported by the diva, it turns out, are due to an extreme protein diet on which Khan subsisted for four months. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Khan revealed to Access Hollywood:

“I started out fasting … for four months. I did nothing but liquids; me and my VitaMix were best friends.

“In the morning I’d have a high protein smoothie and in the afternoon I’d have a vegetable smoothie and in the evening I’d have another protein smoothie.”

High protein diets are not a new way to lose weight, the most famous one being the Atkins diet, which promotes weight loss through the nearly complete exclusion of carbohydrates from one’s meal plans. One of the reasons they tend to work so well — as is evidenced by Chaka’s fab new figure — is that protein itself seems to curb hunger more than fats or carbs. This allows people to eat less, which is of course the main key to losing weight.

The medical reference web site Web MD explains this phenomenon in its detailed piece on the popularity of high-protein diets. “High-protein diets have become a popular way to lose weight because emerging research has hinted that protein may be able to satisfy hunger better than either fats or carbohydrates,” the site reports.  Yet, “Researchers don’t understand exactly how protein works to turn down appetite.” Despite this, studies find that those who engage in high-protein diets combined with exercise lose more weight and feel less deprived than those that merely engage in calorie restriction alone. In addition, lean muscle mass is maintained on this kind of diet. Maintaining muscle mass keeps one’s metabolism high and in a fat burning state, even when one is at rest.

While eating more than the recommended daily allowance of protein is not dangerous unless one has kidney disease, there are important things to keep in mind even if you are wowed by the weight loss potential of protein diets exhibited by Khan. Experts agree that following a diet like Khan’s should be healthy for most — but for no more than three or four months. In addition, the quality of the protein you are ingesting is important to consider, as well as making sure that you are supplementing that protein with enough nutrient-dense foods. This means sticking to lean meats, not hot dogs or processed meats, and adding fresh vegetables. These diets are NOT for those taking heart or liver medication, or folks suffering from chronic illnesses.

The long term effects of high protein diets have not been studied. “These plans often restrict carbs so severely that nutritional deficiencies could arise, according to the Mayo Clinic,” warns U.S. News & World Report in an article ranking high-protein diets. “And diets that encourage red meat and full-fat dairy, which are rich in saturated fat, could raise the risk of heart disease.” A risk many black people are not in a position to wager.

But, if you are looking for a relatively quick way to lose weight without hunger, a diet similar to Khan’s maintained for a few months might be the way to go. If you want to go really extreme, you might even experiment with the infamous K-E Diet, involving a feeding tube (down the nostril) and a bag of protein you literally carry around for ten days — and nothing else. Shocking, but it works. You have to see the video for yourself.

What do you think of these extreme protein diets? Would you go to the extreme of Chaka Khan — or K-E diet fans — to lose weight and preserve muscle without hunger?

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.