No Whey! Simple Protein Source Aids Blood Sugar Control
Little Miss Muffet famously sat on a tuffet while eating her curds and whey (at least until that pesky spider came along). But what exactly is whey, anyway?
Whey is the watery portion that remains after milk has curdled; a byproduct of cheese production. Essentially, the “curds and whey” of the nursery rhyme refers to cottage cheese. Although it’s sometimes discarded, whey is a source of complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids necessary for life. Whey protein, with the water removed, is often sold as a nutritional supplement. Many of us are unfamiliar with this substance, but it may be time for that to change.
Recent research on several fronts indicates that whey may be the perfect food to help people in the early stages of type 2 diabetes regain control over their blood sugar levels. Of course, type 2 diabetes is increasingly common, and it’s characterized, at least initially, by a growing inability to regulate blood sugar levels. This inability occurs when the body’s cells no longer respond normally to the presence of insulin.
Ordinarily, insulin prompts cells to take up sugar molecules that are circulating in the bloodstream. Cells burn sugar (glucose) for fuel. Over time, insulin resistance can develop into full-blown diabetes. Diabetic patients usually require medications to help them control their blood sugar levels. Eventually, many patients require supplemental insulin to survive.
High blood sugar is damaging to blood vessels and nerves, and accounts for some of the most serious complications of poorly controlled diabetes. Eventually, chronically high blood sugar can result in retinal damage—causing blindness—kidney damage, or damage to the extremities, which can lead to amputation.
Immediately after a meal, blood sugar levels often rise rapidly. But research has shown that consuming whey protein before meals can significantly reduce these sharp spikes in blood sugar, making it easier for diabetics to control their blood sugar throughout the day.
“It also improves the body's insulin response,”said Prof. Daniela Jakubowicz, of Tel Aviv University, in a press release, “putting it in the same range or even higher than that produced by novel anti-diabetic drugs.” Jakubowicz also explained how whey helps. “…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 meals.”
If you or someone you know is pre-diabetic, or struggling with early-stage type 2 diabetes, consider adding whey protein to your meals to enhance blood sugar control naturally.
Daniela Jakubowicz, Oren Froy, Bo Ahrén, Mona Boaz, Zohar Landau, Yosefa Bar-Dayan, Tali Ganz, Maayan Barnea, Julio Wainstein. Incretin, insulinotropic and glucose-lowering effects of whey protein pre-load in type 2 diabetes: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologia, 2014; 57 (9): 1807 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-014-3305-x