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Consuming Whey Protein Before Meals Could Help Improve Blood Glucose Control In People With Diabetes

Posted:  Thursday, July 10, 2014

New studies say that whey protein which is typically used among gym goers and weight- lifters may also benefit people who have diabetes. It is because it decreases the blood sugar spikes that they normally experience after meals.

With all of us eating some form of carbohydrates in our meals the likelihood of our blood sugar levels spiking afterward are pretty high. Although this is fine for healthy people, whose pancreases produce enough insulin to counter those spikes, diabetics need medication or insulin injections. The researchers discovered, however, that whey protein may be able to help them manage their blood sugar levels, and even help with increasing insulin production to an extent.

Consuming whey protein before a regular breakfast reduces the blood sugar spikes seen after meals and also improves the body's insulin response, a new study has found. Protein consumption is known to stimulate the production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a gut hormone that in turn stimulates insulin production.

New research 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. The research was conducted in Israel by Professor Daniela Jakubowicz and Dr Julio Wainstein (Wolfson Medical Center, Tel Aviv University), Professor Oren Froy (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Professor Bo Ahrén (Lund University, Sweden) and colleagues.

The reason this works comes from whey’s ability to encourage production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is a hormone in our digestive tracts (the gut) that stimulates the production of insulin.

The 15 study participants were randomly assigned to have a different drink before their breakfast on two different days. On one day they drank 50g of whey protein in 250 ml of water and on the other day a placebo drink of 250 ml of water. Breakfast was the same on each day, a high-glycemic index breakfast which would normally raise blood sugar levels rapidly. The researchers reviewed blood glucose levels and levels of the hormones insulin, c-peptide and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) over 3 hours following breakfast.

The results showed significant evidence that a whey protein drink may help the body’s metabolism following a high-glycemic meal. When the participants had whey protein before their breakfast, they experienced 28% reduction in blood glucose levels, compared with the placebo results, over the course of the 3 hour post-breakfast period. Average peak blood glucose 60 minute after breakfast was around 11 mmol/l on the whey protein day and was around 16 mmol/l on the placebo (water) day.

Consumption of whey protein shortly before a high-glycemic-index breakfast increased the early and late post-meal insulin secretion, improved GLP-1 responses and reduced post-meal blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetic patients. Whey protein may therefore represent a novel approach for enhancing glucose-lowering strategies in type 2 diabetes. Such treatment would be cheap and easy to administer, with patients able to use any brand of whey protein concentrate which has no added sugar or other nutrients.