Diabetes and Protein: How Much Is Just Right?


If you’re diabetic, chances are that you’ve received your share of unsolicited advice. From drinking warm water with guava leaves to lower glucose levels, to completely altering your diet, there is a lot of advice you must’ve faced. 

But one of the most important and recurring conversations regarding diabetes-related nutrition is about protein intake.

How Does Protein Help in Diabetes Management? 

Protein is one of the key macronutrients, along with fat and carbohydrates. They are necessary for ensuring your continued health, and help in building and protecting your cells and tissues. For those with diabetes, protein is especially helpful in improving diabetes control as it can increase satiety, and keep your glucose and blood pressure stable. 

Specifically, increased protein intake helps in boosting insulin response, which can lead to a reduction in the haemoglobin A(1c); the marker of average blood sugar over the last 2-3 months. But if a diabetes patient has kidney-related complications or any other problems, it is important that they strictly calculate their protein intake and stick to that. 

That being said, protein metabolism can change depending on the state of your disease management if you’re diabetic. Sometimes, consuming more protein than required can lead to problems like protein malnutrition and protein in the urine.

Diabetes Protein

Here’s How Diabetes Affects Protein Metabolism And Your Body

Protein, as a macronutrient, is often exalted beyond its capabilities. Since protein has a more complex chemical makeup, it gets broken down slowly and its constituents can be used for producing energy. This is much more effective in keeping the glucose levels stable but is not really the answer to reversing diabetes. Ideally, doctors and nutritionists recommend eating an amount of protein that is in proportion to your lean body mass. 

In type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is important that you closely monitor your protein intake to have the optimum benefits, without any risks. In situations where your diabetes is too far gone, you should get your urine samples tested for protein content. This can be indicative of a number of complications which can simply range from dehydration to even chronic kidney disease. 

Your choice of protein is also a deciding factor in how healthy it is for you. If your primary protein sources are red meats, then you are at increased risk for other complications like hypertension and even other cancers. 

But the biggest and most common problem arising from excessive protein is kidney disease. When you have diabetes mellitus, the high glucose levels can cause your kidneys to over-filter your blood, which can lead to kidney damage, which in turn causes protein leak into the urine. 

Kidney disease causes common diabetes symptoms like increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination and fatigue. Over a period of time, this can lead to chronic kidney disease or even kidney failure.

So How Should Type 2 Diabetes Patients Manage Their Protein Intake? 

Seeking the help of a nutritionist is definitely one of the best moves that a diabetes patient can make for improving their disease. They will be able to help you in figuring out the ideal protein intake for your best health. 

If you are someone who is quite active, and needs protein supplementation in the form of protein shakes and such, seeking expert help is even more important. 

While it is possible to lose weight, stay active and keep your diabetes in check, figuring out the ideal protein requirement to achieve those is the best first step for you.

Read more about the controversies surrounding protein and diabetes at The Diabetes Journal.

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