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Do Protein Supplements Help Control Type 2 Diabetes?

It’s a well-known thing in weightlifting and fitness enthusiast circles that whey protein powder is practically worth its weight in gold when it comes to muscle protein synthesis and post-workout recovery. The body absorbs it very quickly, and it still requires enough caloric energy from the body to digest that a diet rich in it (and meal-derived protein in general) can help you lose fat at a profitable rate.

New medical research studies have bolstered the utility of whey protein to new heights. Indeed, it has shown promise in helping with the chronic disease known as type II diabetes; specifically, it helps the dietary management aspect often used to try and control the more deleterious symptoms. Before we launch into the very promising results, let us take some time out to first understand the basics about whey protein

Whey Protein Primer

Whey protein is the preferred option for bodybuilders and weightlifters because of its fantastic muscle protein synthesis abilities. It has all the amino acids you could need, and it confers elevated recuperative effects onto your internal organs, tendons and skin. It also features in the production of enzymes and hormones that are essential to muscle management.

There are many different types of proteins from which to choose; the reason why whey protein is best is because it starts repairing in building muscles almost immediately after you take it – unlike many of the other proteins, which digests slowly and can take hours to work. The latter property is beneficial to, of course; particularly for exercise enthusiasts who are worried about nighttime muscle catabolism. In some, whey protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids produced by your body, as well as a slew of nonessential amino acids that you can only get from outside sources.

Results of Whey Protein Trials for Type 2 Diabetics

In one of the medical research studies, trial participants imbibed a small whey protein shake before they were given the standard meal afterwards. This was not an in-patient study; the trial participants were allowed to leave and live their lives as usual with a reliable monitoring procedure in place. As is always the case in a reliable study, there was a control group of participants who were given a placebo shake (they were not told whether this contained whey protein or not) and also given license to proceed with their everyday life as usual.

The results were telling: the group of people who were given the pre-meal whey protein supplement displayed far superior glucose levels than those who were given the placebo. In fact, the glucose monitoring device showed blood glucose levels that were 0.6 mmol per liter less than the control group (those given the placebo with no whey protein prior to a meal).

A professional assessment in support of these findings was given by one of the lead experts at the Human Nutrition Research Center and Diabetes Research Group at Newcastle University located in the United Kingdom. Principal Investigator Dr. Daniel West states that: “Although prior studies conducted in the laboratory already displayed the promise held by whey protein as a dietary intervention, this most recent study is the first time actual subjects were allowed to go about their daily routine.”

Another of the study leads, Kieran Smith, noted the very positive comportment of the study participants in regards to the whey protein supplement shake given prior to meals. “The study subjects reported satisfaction with the given regimen, and especially enjoyed the tasteful, small whey protein drink that was convenient to carry, and could be taken before their regular meals.”

Dr. Daniel West went on further regarding the effectiveness of how the study was set up. “We determined that the whey protein operates in several ways. In the first way, the whey protein dramatically slows down the passage of food through the digestive system. This obviously can help with making people feel fuller for longer – hence, there’s no need to do it frequently. Secondly, by passing through at such a slow rate, the whey protein is able to stimulate some otherwise dormant hormones that stifle the pension that blood sugars have ordinarily to skyrocket.”

It is believed that since the rate of diabetes throughout the world is climbing in response to modern diets and lifestyles, it is imperative that the medical and nutrition communities pursue food supplement alternatives to the prescribed drugs. This isn’t to suggest that developments in type II diabetes-related drugs should in any way cease or slow down.

Protein Supplement Study Specifics

Although a number of such studies have been completed thus far – with more underway at the time of this writing – we will detail one, in particular. This specific trial involved 18 participants; all of whom had type 2 diabetes. Each member of this group of 18 were given a 100 ml cup of 15 grams of a whey protein mixture about 10 minutes before a meal. This was done for three different meals in a 24-hour period – breakfast, lunch and dinner, over a period of seven days.

It’s important to note that these people remained on the diabetes medication that had been prescribed by their primary physicians prior to the study. Additionally, they were tracked and have their glucose levels monitored nonstop throughout the week.

“The study participants expressed how much they liked being able to stick to the familiarity of the regimen, all while having the tasteful whey protein drink in a premade carton that could be easily carried with them throughout their daily errands,” stated Kieran Smith, the Newcastle University doctoral student who was responsible for monitoring the blood glucose levels and the subsequent data analysis.

As a result of the success of this limited study – limited in that it only included little over a dozen patients – the team has plans to perform another trial spanning about six months, and with many more diabetes patients. There may be more plans to use whey protein; but as they have expressed in recent interviews, they are just as interested in using different proteins to see if they have a similar effect. Some of these include proteins derived from fungi, pea protein, Cricket protein and even potato protein. The rationale, in addition to practicality, is to be able to provide alternatives for vegetarians/vegans and those whose dietary practices are restricted by religious observances.

For more technical information on the study that was the subject of this review, check out the May 26, 2022 edition of BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care medical Journal. The reference is entitled “thrice daily consumption of a novel, pre-meal shot containing a low dose of whey protein increases time in euglycemia during 7 days of free-living in individuals with type II diabetes.”

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