Whey Protein Consumption Can Improve Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics

by Christine Hronec

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. These patients usually experience frequent urination (polyuria), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia), and or increasingly hungry (polyphagia).

There are 2 types of diabetes, In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin either in childhood or in their teenage or early adulthood years. On the other hand, in type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, the most common type of diabetes resulting from improper blood glucose monitoring, not maintaining a healthy weight, and not eating a healthy diet. Type 2 diabetes is usually a progressive disease and if uncontrolled will make the patient resort to medications for blood sugar control. People with a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, belly fat, or abdominal obesity, are especially at risk.

Untreated diabetes can bring about many complications such as those involving the eye, the feet, the skin, the heart, the blood vessels, the mind, the nerves, the senses, the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. Eye complications may include glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and some others. Foot complications may include neuropathy, ulcers, and sometimes gangrene which may require that the foot be amputated. Heart problems may include ischemic heart disease, when the blood supply to the heart muscle is diminished. Mental health problems include depression, anxiety and some other mental disorders. Patients may be especially prone to other complications such as hearing loss, gum diseases, gastroparesis, ketoacidosis, neuropathy, HHNS (Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome), nephropathy, peripheral arterial disease, stroke, erectile dysfunction, infections and slow healing of wounds.

A recent study published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) suggests that consuming whey protein before a regular breakfast reduces the blood sugar spikes seen after meals and also improves the body’s insulin response. Thus whey protein could be an additional tool to help control blood sugar in patients with diabetes. This study was done in Israel by researchers from the Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Lund University, Sweden.

In this study, 15 people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes who were not taking any medications except for sulfonylureas or metformin (oral diabetes drugs) consumed, on two separate days, 50 g whey in 250 ml water or placebo (250 ml water) followed by a standardized high-glycemic-index breakfast in a hospital setting. The breakfast contained 3 slices of white bread and sugar-containing jelly, a meal designed to produce the maximum post-meal glucose spike. The results revealed that glucose levels were reduced by 28% after whey protein pre-load compared with no whey protein. Insulin and C-peptide (a building block of insulin) responses were both significantly higher (by 105% and 43%, respectively) in the whey protein group. Notably, the early insulin response (meaning within the first 30 minutes following breakfast) was 96% higher after whey protein than with placebo.

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