Protein supplements for diabetes patients to improve blood sugar levels | Health


People who have diabetes know that maintaining a healthy diet is important for keeping their blood sugar levels in check but did you know that protein can also be beneficial? Studies have shown that protein or protein supplements can help to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which means that protein can help you to better control your diabetes.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a protein consumption of 46 to 56 grams (g) per day for those over the age of 19 depending on their age and sex. For adults, it is recommended that 10-35% of their daily calories should be consumed from proteins and according to health experts, protein drinks are a good supplement to reach the daily RDA levels however, it is still advised to also eat a variety of protein-rich meals such as fish, meat, beans, dairy products and nuts, as they include other vital nutrients as well.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Saket Kant, Senior Consultant, Endocrinology at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, shared, “A healthy meal comprises of adequate amounts of macro (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micro-nutrients. This is true for patients with diabetes also. Many studies have shown that 60-70% of the calorie intake in Indian diets is from Carbohydrates. Proteins are a major functional and structural component of all the cells of the body including muscle.”

He cautioned, “Lack of an adequate amount of proteins can lead to loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) which can lead to weakness, increased risk of falls as also increased insulin resistance. This loss of lean body muscle mass gets more and more important as we get older-muscle, mass, strength and function decline and this decrease is higher in patients with pre-diabetes and diabetes as compared to non-diabetics.”

He suggested, “Intake of 1gm/kg protein for diabetes with normal kidney function and 0.8gm/kg for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease is recommended. Higher protein intake may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and improve metabolic control only when weight loss is achieved. An isocaloric high-protein diet with higher branched-chain amino acids may increase insulin resistance, which could adversely affect glucose control. Not all proteins are created equal. A low-fat protein source is the best source to be incorporated into the diet.”

Dr Kant highlighted, “Proteins play an important role in glucose control also as they slow the rate of carbohydrate release and hence the rate of rise of glucose in the bloodstream. High-quality proteins carry more satiety value as compared to carbohydrates and hence help in weight management also. Protein-rich food sources provide a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can include high-quality proteins in their diet according to their preferences. Nuts, seeds, soybeans, Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), eggs, Poultry (chicken or turkey), fish, seafood and red meat are good sources of protein. Overall both the quantity and quality of protein intake are important.”

Dr Navneet Agarwal, Chief Clinical Officer at BeatO, revealed, “Indian diets are significantly low in protein content. Among diabetic patients, intake of protein in the recommended amount will help to control their blood glucose and lower the HbA1c. The proteins particularly those which are rich in BCCA (branched-chain amino acids) have insulinotropic properties and enhance the release of insulin with low glycemic response. Protein consumption also affects the gut hormone response like reducing the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, as well as increasing the satiety-stimulating hormones PYY and GLP-1. Proteins improve the insulin sensitivity, blunt the glycemic index of a meal, provide good satiety, improve the muscle mass and also help in improving immunity.”

So, if you are looking for a way to better manage your diabetes, consider adding protein or any quality protein supplement to your diet since diabetes is more of a lifestyle condition that may be managed with a healthy diet, the right supplements and consistent exercise. You should maintain a regular exercise schedule, eat a diet high in fibre and protein and avoid processed carbohydrates, sugar and fats. Whey protein supplements can also be taken to maintain controlled blood sugar levels and you will be surprised at the difference it can make in your diabetic levels.

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