Whey protein may hold key for diabetes blood sugar management
27 May 2022 --- Drinking a small amount of whey protein before meals may help people with Type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar, a new UK study has revealed. The findings hold potential for dietary management of the condition, the researchers note.
“As we see growing numbers of people around the world developing diabetes, investigating the potential of alternatives to drugs such as food supplements becomes more important,” says Dr. Daniel West, senior lecturer and principal investigator working within the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Diabetes Research Group at Newcastle University.
The findings come at a time when the UK has been described to be at a tipping point of a public health emergency, with one in ten people expected to be living with diabetes by 2030.
As part of the study, people with Type 2 diabetes drank a pre-made shot before meals which contained a low dose of whey protein. They were monitored for a week as they went about normal daily life. To compare the potential benefits of whey protein, the same participants also spent a week drinking a control shot that contained no protein in order to measure the results against each other.
“People were able to stick to the regime and liked the idea of having a convenient, tasty, small pre-made drink that could be carried with them and taken before meals,” highlights Kieran Smith, Newcastle University Ph.D. student involved in the study.
As part of the study, 18 people with Type 2 diabetes consumed a 100 ml shot with 15 g of protein ten minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner over seven days and remained on their prescribed diabetes medication. Continuous glucose monitoring automatically tracked blood glucose levels over the course of the week.
The results, published in BMJ, revealed that glucose levels were better controlled when taking the whey supplement before meals. On average, they had two hours extra per day of normal blood sugar levels compared to the no-protein week. In addition, their daily blood glucose levels were 0.6 mmol/L lower compared to when they consumed the supplement without any protein.
“We believe the whey protein works in two ways, firstly, by slowing down how quickly food passes through the digestive system and secondly, by stimulating a number of important hormones that prevent the blood sugars climbing so high,” explains West.
“While previous studies for a few hours in the lab have shown the potential for this dietary intervention, this is the first time that people have been monitored as they go about normal life.”
Vegan options next
The researchers now intend to further explore the benefits of non-medical interventions by running the study on a larger scale and for a longer period of up to six months.
Nestlé Health Science announced it developed a whey protein microgel that can help improve blood sugar control in individuals with Type 2 diabetes
The scientists at Newcastle University also plan to look at alternative proteins, such as those from plant sources like peas, fungi and potatoes to open up options for vegan and religious dietary needs.
Previous research highlighted that shakes containing potato and rice protein could be better than whey protein at managing blood glucose levels and reducing spikes in insulin.
By Andria Kades
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