Whey protein could aid in the dietary management of type 2 diabetes after new research shows a pre-made shot before meals helps control blood sugars.

The study, published in  BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, found from continuous glucose monitoring that glucose levels were much better controlled when taking the whey supplement before meals.

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

On average, patients had two hours extra per day of normal blood sugar levels compared to the no protein week. In addition, their daily blood glucose levels were 0.6mmol/L lower compared to when they consumed the supplement without any protein.

Investigating the potential of alternatives to type 2 diabetes drugs

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, 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. 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.”

In the study 18 people with type 2 diabetes consumed a small drink - in a 100ml shot- with 15 grams 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.