Whey protein is a supplement typically used by those who want to increase muscle mass. However a recent study has suggested that it may be beneficial for diabetics by improving insulin response.
When eating a meal, especially containing high GI (glycaemic index) foods it can lead to blood sugar levels spiking. Whilst this can be ok for those whose pancreas produces enough insulin to counter this, those with diabetes may have to control this through medication or even injections.
The crossover study investigated the effect on 15 individuals with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. The participants consumed either 50g of whey protein or a placebo mixed in water followed by a high GI breakfast 30 minutes later (including 3 slices white bread and sugar containing jelly to have a high impact on blood glucose levels).
The participant’s blood was tested at the consumption of the pre-meal drinks and 15, 30, 60, 90 and 180 minutes after consuming the high GI breakfast to measure parameters including blood glucose levels, insulin, C-peptide and GLP-1. At least 2 weeks later the participant then repeated this process with the other pre-meal drink.
They found glucose levels to reduce by 28% after consuming the whey protein and the early insulin response to be improved by 98% compared to placebo. This may be attributed to whey protein stimulating glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1) which encourages the production of insulin and may help to reduce spikes in blood sugar often experienced by those with diabetes after meals.
The study concluded that the consumption of whey protein prior to a high GI breakfast may improve insulin secretion and reduce blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Further research is now required to investigate the mechanisms involved, its long term effect and to identify whether whey protein could be used as an approach to enhance glucose lowering strategies.
Adie Blanchard – Researcher
Jakubowicz, D., Froy, O., Ahren, B., Boaz, M., Landau, Z. et al. (2014). Incretin, insulinotropic and glucose-lowering effects of protein pre-loan in type 2 diabetes: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologica.