An extra 10 grams of protein a day can increase risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds

by Barbara Hewitt on May 1, 2014

Those who eat the most protein, especially from animal sources, could be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new study of European adults.

The study looked at a group of adults from eight European countries over a 12 year period, examining the diets of people who went on to develop diabetes and those who did not.

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Researchers found those who ate the most protein were 17% more likely to develop diabetes

Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands split the study participants into two groups— 11,000 people who developed the disease and 15,000 who did not—and compared the two.

The data collected looked at participants’ diet, physical activity, height, weight and waist circumference, then followed them to see who developed diabetes.

Overall, the adults in the study commonly ate about 90 grams of protein per day. Those who ate more tended to have a higher weight-to-height ratio and ate more fibre and cholesterol than people who ate less protein.

After accounting for other diabetes risk factors, every additional 10 grams of protein people consumed each day was tied to a 6% higher chance that they would develop diabetes.

Dividing participants into five groups based on how much protein they ate, the researchers found those who ate the most, or around 111 grams per day, were 17% more likely to develop diabetes than those who ate the least, or around 72 grams per day.

Specifically, those who ate the most animal protein, or 78 grams per day, were 22% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who ate the least, around 36 grams per day, according to the results of the study published in Diabetes Care.

Several previous studies have found that higher intake of total protein, particularly animal protein, is associated with long-term risk of developing diabetes. According to diabetes expert Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, this study suggests that only a modest increase can move someone into the higher risk category.

He also pointed out that people who ate the most protein got about 15% of their calories from red meat, processed meat, poultry, fish and dairy, which appears to be too much.

The association between animal protein and diabetes risk appeared to be strongest among obese women. Plant protein, on the other hand, was not linked to diabetes.

‘Cheese, preserved meats and cold cuts should be minimised. Pay attention to both quantity and food sources of protein. It’s probably a good idea for people with a family history of diabetes to replace at least some red meat with nuts, legumes or whole grains,’ said Hu, who was not involved in the study.

‘In other studies, plant protein sources such as nuts, legumes and whole grains have been associated with lower risk of diabetes. Therefore, replacing red meat and processed meat with plant sources of protein is important for diabetes prevention,’ he added.

Generally people associate high fat and high carbohydrate diets with diabetes risk, but this study underscores that protein is an important nutrient to consider as well, according to Paolo Magni from the Institute of Endocrinology at the University of Milan in Italy.

‘As a general rule, I would suggest to eat normal portions of red meat not more than two times per week, poultry and fish three to four times per week, skimmed milk or yogurt maybe not every day,’ he said.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan April 26, 2017 at 4:54 am

First diabetics should eat protein now no protein allowed?

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