protein

Type of protein in human diet may play a role in type 2 diabetes risk, new study shows

by Barbara Hewitt on April 24, 2017

There is growing evidence that the source of dietary protein may play a role in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland found that plant protein was associated with a lower risk while those who have a diet rich in meat have a higher risk.

Earlier research has linked a high overall intake of animal protein, particularly processed red meat, with a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes but the significance of proteins from different sources has been an understudied topic.

The researchers decided to analyse the associations of dietary protein with the risk of type 2 diabetes in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), carried out at the University of Eastern Finland.

The researchers analysed the diets of 2,332 men who were between 42 and 60 years of age and who did not have type 2 diabetes at baseline. During a follow up of 19 years some 432 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Men with a high intake of plant protein also had healthy lifestyle habits, but lifestyle habits alone did not explain their lower risk of diabetes. The risk of men with the highest intake of plant protein to develop type 2 diabetes was 35% smaller than the risk of those with the lowest intake of plant protein.

Using a computational model, the researchers estimated that replacing approximately five grams of animal protein with plant protein daily would reduce the risk of diabetes by 18%. The consumption of plant protein was also associated with lower blood glucose levels at the beginning of the study, which may explain the linkage of plant protein with reduced diabetes risk. In this study, grain products were the main source of plant protein, with other sources being potatoes and other vegetables.

The researchers also discovered an association of a high intake of meat with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The strongest association was seen in the consumption of meat in general, including processed and unprocessed red meat, white meat and variety meats.

The researchers say that the link between eating meat and having a higher risk of diabetes is likely caused by other compounds found in meat than protein, as meat protein was not associated with the risk of diabetes.

The intake of overall protein, animal protein, fish protein or dairy protein were not associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. The association of egg protein was found to be similar to the research group’s earlier findings relating to the consumption of eggs in that a higher intake was associated with a lower risk.

‘The findings indicate that a diet preferring plant protein may help prevent type 2 diabetes, the study concludes.

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