In good news for patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, researchers have found that consumption of whey protein before meals may help them keep insulin treatment at bay.
"What is remarkable is that consuming whey protein before meals reduces the blood sugar spikes seen after meals," said Daniela Jakubowicz, professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
"It also improves the body's insulin response, putting it in the same range or even higher than that produced by novel anti-diabetic drugs," she added.
Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese production.
High milk intake has long been associated with lower risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and milk whey protein increases the production of a gut hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that stimulates insulin secretion.
This, in turn, reduces the blood glucose rise after meal, Jakubowicz explained.
The study was conducted on 15 individuals with well-controlled type 2 diabetes at Wolfson Medical Center in Israel.
The researchers found that glucose levels were reduced by 28 percent after the whey pre-load over the 180-minute post-meal period, with a uniform reduction during early and late phases.
With whey pre-load, insulin and GLP-1 responses also were significantly higher (105 and 141 percent, respectively), producing a 96 percent increase in early insulin response.
"Whey protein could therefore represent a novel approach for enhancing glucose-lowering strategies in type 2 diabetes," Jakubowicz noted.
The study appeared in the journal Diabetologia.