Whey Protein Shot Improves Time in Target Glucose Range in Type 2

Consuming a whey protein shot before meals reduced elevated blood glucose and increased participants’ time in their target blood glucose range, according to a new study involving people with type 2 diabetes published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

There is long-standing evidence that focusing on consuming more protein in your diet may have health benefits, especially in people with diabetes. One study found that a reduced-carbohydrate, high-protein diet provided several benefits in people with type 2 diabetes, including better blood glucose control and reduced hunger. Another study showed that a high-protein diet was linked to improved blood glucose stability in people with type 1 diabetes. There is also evidence that the timing and quality of the protein you eat may affect your risk for cardiovascular disease, and more protein in the diet is linked to better bone health in older adults. On the other hand, not consuming enough protein has been shown to carry risks — a low protein intake is linked to greater functional limitations (like difficulty bending down or kneeling) in people with or without diabetes.

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For the latest study, researchers recruited 18 adult participants with type 2 diabetes who didn’t take insulin, with an average age of 50 and an average A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) of 7.4%. Participants were randomly assigned — without knowing which group they were assigned to — to consume either a whey protein shot containing 15 grams of protein 10 minutes before each breakfast, lunch, and dinner for seven days, or to consume a low-nutrient placebo (inactive) shot instead. All participants wore a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system as part of the study, which recorded glucose levels but didn’t let participants see them.

The researchers were most interested in the amount of time participants spent in a target glucose range of 70-180 mg/dl, or above or below this range. They found that compared with the placebo group, participants who consumed the whey protein shot spent more time in their target glucose range. While the placebo group spent 38% of the time above the target range, this number was 30% for the whey protein group — leading to a 9% increase, or about two hours each day, in the amount of time spent in the target glucose range.

There was no difference in nighttime blood glucose control between the two groups. Participants in both groups reported taking their assigned shot about 98% of the time overall, and no adverse events were reported in either group.

The researchers concluded that taking a whey protein shot before meals may be a viable strategy for reducing elevated blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. More research is needed, though, to demonstrate whether taking a protein shot is more effective than consuming more protein in general, and to what degree the timing of a person’s protein intake affects blood glucose levels.

Want to learn more about managing after-meal blood sugar levels? Read “Strike the Spike II,” “Dealing With After-Meal Blood Sugar Spikes? Don’t Skip Breakfast,” “Managing Your Blood Glucose Ups and Downs” and “How to Lower Blood Sugar? Take a 10-Minute Walk After Meals, Study Says.”

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