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HomeEndocrinologyWhey protein helps control blood sugar – Newcastle University study

Whey protein helps control blood sugar – Newcastle University study

Drinking a small amount of whey protein before meals has been shown to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugars.

In a British study, which holds potential for dietary management of the condition, people with type 2 diabetes drank a pre-made shot before meals which contained a low dose of whey protein. They were monitored for a week as they went about normal daily life.

To compare the potential benefits of whey protein, they also spent a week drinking a control shot that contained no protein, to measure the results against each other.

Results from continuous glucose monitoring revealed that glucose levels were much better controlled when taking the whey supplement before meals. On average, they had two hours extra per day of normal blood sugar levels compared with the no protein week. In addition, their daily blood glucose levels were 0.6 mmol/L lower compared to when they consumed the supplement without any protein.

Dr Daniel West, senior lecturer and principal investigator working within the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Diabetes Research Group at Newcastle University, UK, 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 the whey protein works in two ways, first, by slowing down how quickly food passes through the digestive system and second, by stimulating a number of important hormones that prevent the blood sugars climbing so high.

“As we see growing numbers of people around the world developing diabetes, investigating the potential of alternatives to drugs such as food supplements becomes more important."

A group of 18 people with type 2 diabetes consumed a small drink – in a 100ml shot –with 15g of protein 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner over seven days and remained on their prescribed diabetes medication. Continuous glucose monitoring automatically tracked blood glucose levels over the course of the week.

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 meals.”

The team intend to further explore the benefits of non-medical interventions, running the study on a larger scale and for a longer period of up to six months. They also plan to look at alternative proteins, such as those that come from plant sources like peas, fungi and potatoes, to open up options for vegan and religious dietary needs.

Study details

Thrice daily consumption of a novel, pre-meal shot containing a low dose of whey protein increases time in euglycemia during seven days of free-living in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Kieran Smith, Guy Taylor, Lise Brunsgaard, Mark Walker, Kelly Bowden Davies, Emma Stevenson, Daniel West.

Published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care on 27 May 2022


During acute feeding trials, consuming a large dose of whey protein (WP) before meals improves postprandial glucose regulation in people with type 2 diabetes. It is unclear if the reported benefits of premeal WP supplementation are translatable to everyday care or are associated with clinically meaningful, real-world glycaemic outcomes. This study examined the application of a novel, premeal shot containing a low dose of WP on parameters of free-living glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Research design and methods
In a randomised, placebo-controlled, single-blind crossover design, 18 insulin naive individuals with type 2 diabetes ((mean±SD) age, 50±6 years; HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin), 7.4%±0.8%; duration of diabetes, 6±5 years) consumed a ready-to-drink WP shot (15 g of protein) or a nutrient-depleted placebo beverage 10 min before breakfast, lunch, and dinner over a 7-day free-living period. Free-living glucose control was measured by blinded continuous glucose monitoring and determined by the percentage of time spent above range (>10 mmol/L), in euglycaemic range (3.9–10.0 mmol/L), below range (<3.9 mmol/L) and mean glucose concentrations.

Mealtime WP supplementation reduced the prevalence of daily hyperglycaemia by 8%±19% (30%±25% vs 38%±28%, p<0.05), thereby enabling a 9%±19% (~2 hours/day) increase in the time spent in euglycaemia (p<0.05). Mean 24-hour blood glucose concentrations were 0.6±1.2 mmol/L lower during WP compared with placebo (p<0.05). Similar improvements in glycaemic control were observed during the waken period with premeal WP supplementation (p<0.05), whereas nocturnal glycaemic control was unaffected (p>0.05). Supplemental compliance/acceptance was high (>98%), and no adverse events were reported.

Consuming a novel premeal WP shot containing 15 g of protein before each main meal reduces the prevalence of daily hyperglycaemia, thereby enabling a greater amount of time spent in euglycaemic range per day over 7 days of free-living in people with type 2 diabetes.


BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care article – Thrice daily consumption of a novel, premeal shot containing a low dose of whey protein increases time in euglycaemia during 7 days of free-living in individuals with type 2 diabetes (Creative Commons Licence)


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