NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A breakfast rich in whey protein may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their illness better, new research from Israel suggests.
"Whey protein, a byproduct of cheese manufacturing, lowers postprandial glycemia more than other protein sources," said lead author Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz from Wolfson Medical Center at Tel Aviv University."
We found that in type 2 diabetes, increasing protein content at breakfast has a greater impact on weight loss, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C), satiety and postprandial glycemia when the protein source is whey protein, compared with other protein sources, such as eggs, tuna and soy," she told Reuters Health by email.
Dr. Jakubowicz and her group presented their findings April 1 at ENDO 2016, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, in Boston.
They randomly assigned 48 overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes to one of three isocaloric diets. Over 12 weeks, everyone ate a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and a small dinner, but the amount and source of each group's breakfast proteins differed.
At breakfast, the 17 participants in the whey group ate 36 g of protein as part of a whey protein shake consisting of 40% carbohydrate, 40% protein and 20% fat. The 16 participants in the high-protein group ate 36 g of protein in the form of eggs, tuna and cheese (40% carbs; 40% protein; 20% fat). The 15 in the high-carbohydrate group ate 13 g of protein in ready-to-eat cereals (65% carbs; 15% protein; 20% fat).
All three diets included a 660 kcal breakfast, a 567 cal lunch and a 276 cal dinner, with the same composition at lunch and dinner.
After 12 weeks, the participants in the whey protein group lost the most weight (7.6 kg vs. 6.1 kg for participants in the high-protein group and 3.5 kg for those in the high-carbohydrate group (p<0.0001).
Participants on the whey protein diet were less hungry during the day and had lower glucose spikes after meals compared with those on the other two diets.
The drop in HbA1C was 11.5% in the whey group, 7.7% in the protein group and 4.6% in the carbohydrate group (p<0.0001). Compared with the carbohydrate group, the percentage drop in HbA1c was greater by 41% in the protein group and by 64% in the whey group (p<0.0001).
"Whey protein was consumed only at breakfast; however, the improvement of glucose, insulin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) was also observed after lunch and dinner. The mechanism of this persistent beneficial effect of whey protein needs further research," Dr. Jakubowicz said.
Co-author Dr. Julio Wainstein, also at Wolfson Medical Center, added by email, "Usually, patients with type 2 diabetes are treated with a combination of several antidiabetic drugs to achieve adequate glucose regulation and decrease HbA1c. Whey protein should be considered an important adjuvant in the management of type 2 diabetes."
"Furthermore," Dr. Wainstein added, "it is possible that by adding whey protein to the diet, glucose regulation might be achieved with less medication, which is a valuable advantage in type 2 diabetes treatment."
The study had no commercial funding, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.