Is Whey the Way to Control Type 2 Diabetes?
Some scientists say that whey protein may help control the blood sugar spikes that can prove so dangerous to people who have type 2 diabetes. If additional findings from the authors of the new study hold up, whey protein may even provide an additional bonus for these patients.
What is whey protein?
Whey is the watery leftovers from the production of cheese, while whey protein is the combination of proteins isolated from whey. Supplements of whey protein are often used by athletes (especially body builders) to help improve lean muscle mass and strength.
According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Lund University in Sweden, people with type 2 diabetes who consume whey protein before their meals may significantly reduce the occurrence of post meal surges (post-meal hyperglycemia) in blood sugar. Such surges are associated with kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and damage to the eyes. Pregnant women should especially be careful to avoid such spikes, as they are associated with a greater risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
The whey study
Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, of the Wolfson Medical Center’s Diabetes Unit, explained that “milk whey protein increases the production of a gut hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that stimulates insulin secretion. This, in turn, reduces the blood glucose rise after meals.”
The study involved 15 people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. They were assigned to take either 50 grams of whey protein mixed in 250 milliliters of water or a placebo before eating a meal designed to send their blood sugar levels soaring: three slices of white bread with sugary jelly.
A series of blood samples was taken 30 minutes before the meal, immediately after the whey or placebo was consumed, and then at regular intervals over the next three hours. Here is what the authors observed:
- Among those who took the whey protein mixture, blood sugar levels declined by 28 percent over the three-hour period
- Consumption of whey protein also resulted in a significantly greater response in insulin levels (105%) and GLP-1 (141%), an important bonus
- Overall, the researchers saw a 96 percent increase in the early insulin response among those who took the whey protein
Based on the findings of this study, the investigators believe whey protein could be a new way to help manage blood sugar levels among people who have type 2 diabetes. Since better control equals less risk of developing the complications of diabetes, as well as a better quality of life, whey could be a new way to help manage this disease.
For now, the researchers plan to move forward with the idea and conduct a long-term clinical trial. Use of whey protein to help manage blood sugar surges is still in the investigation stage, but anyone with type 2 diabetes who are interested in the idea may want to discuss it with their healthcare provider.