The number of people who develop type 2 diabetes with raised blood sugar is rising with no signs of slowing down.
But what if taking a food supplement could help to control blood sugar?
Newcastle University researchers think they’ve found an answer: drinking a small amount of whey protein before meals can help people with type 2 diabetes to do this.
Yes, that’s whey protein, the liquid part of milk left after the solids are removed – think “curds and whey” as in the nursery rhyme.
In the study, people with type 2 diabetes drank a shot before meals containing a low dose of whey protein. Their glucose levels were monitored for a normal active week. The same participants then drank a control shot containing no protein for a week in order to compare the results.
For the experiment, 18 people with type 2 diabetes consumed a 100ml shot with 15g of protein 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner over seven days while remaining on their diabetes medication.
Continuous glucose monitoring automatically tracked blood glucose levels over the course of the week and revealed that these were much better controlled when taking the whey before meals.
On average, participants had two hours extra a day of normal blood sugar levels compared to the control week. Dr Daniel West, senior lecturer and principal investigator working with the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Diabetes Research Group at Newcastle University, said: “While previous studies for a few hours in the lab have shown the potential for this dietary intervention, this is the first time that people have been monitored as they go about normal life.
“We believe that 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.”
Newcastle University PhD student, Kieran Smith, who oversaw the glucose monitoring and analysed the data, said: “People were able to stick to the regime and liked the idea of having a convenient, tasty, small pre-made drink that could be carried with them and taken before their meals.”
The team intends to run the study on a larger scale and for up to six months using pea protein, fungi and potatoes to open up options for vegan and religious dietary needs.