Drinking whey protein supplements may boost type 2 diabetes control

whey protein supplements
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A study performed in the UK has identified drinking whey protein supplements before eating meals may help type 2 diabetes patients manage their blood sugar levels.

Research conducted at Newcastle University suggests that whey protein supplements may be an effective dietary intervention for people with type 2 diabetes. The novel study has demonstrated that when patients with type 2 diabetes drank a pre-made shot containing a small amount of whey protein before meals, they were able to control their blood glucose levels much better.

The study is published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

Controlling diabetes with whey protein

For their study, the Newcastle University team recruited 18 patients with type 2 diabetes. The individuals consumed a small 100 ml drink containing 15 grams of whey protein three times per day – 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The participants drank the whey protein supplements for seven days and remained on their prescribed diabetes medications. The team analysed blood glucose levels during this period by employing continuous glucose monitoring.

The researchers also compared the potential benefits of whey protein by examining the same patients over a week where they consumed a control drink that did not contain whey protein, enabling them to measure the results against each other.

The continuous glucose monitoring results demonstrated the participant’s glucose levels were much better when drinking the whey protein supplements before meals. The individuals had, on average, an additional two hours each day of normal blood sugar levels compared to the week with no whey protein. Moreover, their blood glucose levels were 0.6 mmol/L lower when consuming whey protein compared to when they did not.

Dr Daniel West, Senior Lecturer and Principal Investigator working within the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Diabetes Research Group at Newcastle University, said: “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.

“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 from climbing so high.

“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.”

Newcastle University PhD student, Kieran Smith, who oversaw the glucose monitoring and analysed the data, said: “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.”

Future dietary interventions for diabetes

The researchers explained that they are now aiming to investigate the potential benefits of non-medical interventions for diabetes and plan to perform the study on a larger scale for a more extended period of six months.

They are also looking to explore the effects of other types of protein, such as plant-based sources like peas, fungi, and potatoes, which may provide an alternative for type 2 diabetes patients with vegan or religious dietary requirements.


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