Whey protein may help manage type 2diabetes

Individuals with type 2 diabetes know the importance of managing their blood glucose and Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in order to keep themselves healthy and to minimize complications.  But for many, this is easier said than done.  However, a new study shines a light on a certain substance that can help those with this disease to reduce postprandial glycemia, lower their HbA1c, lose weight and provide satiety -  whey protein

What studies show

Several studies have shown over the years whey proteins ability to play a key role in stimulating insulin release in order to reduce blood glucose levels after eating a meal.  A new study now points to further evidence that whey protein appears to be also help with weight loss and better overall management of diabetes, especially if those with diabetes start their day with it at breakfast.   

Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, a professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University, conducted a study of 48 overweight and obese participants with type 2 diabetes.  For 23 months participants were assigned to 1 of 3 breakfast meals – one group had whey protein usually in a shake, another group had other proteins that included eggs, soy or tuna, while the third group had a breakfast high in carbohydrates or starch. 

The results found participants in the whey protein group experienced greater satiety an d less hunger, lower rises in glucose after meals and showed greater reductions in HbA1c. In fact, the whey protein breakfast group had a 11.5% improvement change in their HbA1c compared to 7.7% improvement in the other protein group while the carbohydrate group only saw a 4.6% improvement.  HbA1c reflects the average of a person’s blood glucose levels over the past 3 months.  The higher the percentage, the higher a person’s blood glucose levels have been.  A normal HbA1c level is below 5.7%.

Weight loss was another factor showing improvement particularly for the whey protein group.  Those participants in the whey protein group had greater weight loss at 12 weeks with an average of 16.5 pounds or 7.6 kg; the other protein group lost 13.5 pounds or 6.1 kg while the carbohydrate group lost the least of 6.8 pounds or 3.1 kg.

Why whey protein can help manage diabetes

Miss Muffet in the nursery rhyme, “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey,” was ahead of her time.  Little did she know that whey, which is one of two proteins found in milk, the other being casein, could possibly be a boon to aiding the management of diabetes. What is it about whey protein that seems to possibly be an important therapy for the management of type 2 diabetes?

Whey protein comes in three forms – whey isolate, whey concentrate and hydrolysate whey protein.  Each type contains different amounts of fat, cholesterol, lactose, and bioactive compounds.  Of the three types, hydrolysate whey protein is the best absorbed.  Most whey protein supplements such as whey protein powder, are a combination of all three types.

The effect whey protein has on type 2 diabetes appears to be very beneficial.  One way whey protein helps is to stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas helping to reduce blood glucose levels.  Another way whey protein improves management of type 2 diabetes is by decreasing blood glucose levels after a meal compared with individuals who did not consume whey protein with their meals.  It is believed that whey protein helped lower blood glucose levels by slowing down digestion and increasing insulin sensitivity.  Because of the slowed digestion of whey protein, it helps a person to feel full longer preventing increases in appetite. 

Another reason to use whey protein is to help build and maintain muscle mass.  Whey protein contains branched chain amino acids along with the amino acid leucine which may help prevent the loss of muscle mass associated with aging.  The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism meaning you burn more calories throughout the day helping with weight loss or control. 

How much whey protein to use

First, always consult with your physician before taking whey protein, especially if you have kidney or liver issues.  If you are lactose intolerant use whey protein isolate which does not containlactose.  Certain medications may interact with whey protein such as levodopa, Fosamax, and some antibiotics. 

The amount of whey protein to use daily is probably no more than 20 grams.  Check on the nutrition facts panel to see how many grams a scoop of whey protein powder contains.  Many supermarkets and health food stores sell it, usually in powder form.  The powder can be added to your morning coffee helping you have a fuller feeling throughout the day, or can be added to pasta sauces, ground meat, milk or in a shake.