Protein powder before meals helps manage type 2 diabetes, study says

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A new study found that drinking a small amount of whey protein before meals helped stabilize the blood sugar of type 2 diabetics.

The study was published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care and was conducted by researchers at Newcastle University in Tyne, England. The study’s researchers sought to better understand the effects that consuming whey protein before a meal had on the glucose levels of those with type 2 diabetes. To do so, researchers recruited 18 people with type 2 diabetes to drink a 100-milliliter (ml) shot, which had 15 grams (g) of protein, 10 minutes before each meal for seven days. Throughout the trial period, participants remained on their diabetes medication. Then, for another week, the same participants were asked to consume a supplement before meals that had no protein. Researchers monitored the participants’ continuous glucose monitor data, which periodically tracks blood sugar levels, during both weeks.

The results of the study showed that when participants drank the whey protein before each meal their glucose levels were significantly better during the week compared to when they had no protein before meals. Glucose data revealed that on average, the week participants drank the protein prior to mealtime, they had two more hours of controlled glucose levels compared to the week without protein. In addition, when they were drinking the whey protein, their blood sugar levels were shown to be 0.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) lower than the no protein week.

“We believe the whey protein works in two ways, firstly, by slowing down how quickly food passes through the digestive system and secondly, by stimulating a number of important hormones that prevent the blood sugars climbing so high,” said Daniel West, PhD, senior lecturer at the Newcastle University Human Nutrition Research Centre, and researcher of the study.

In the future, the team of researchers plan to test the effects of whey protein before meals on glucose levels for a longer period of time as well as test alternative plant-based proteins.