- The role of different dietary proteins in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has been understudied and remains unclear.
- New findings suggest that a diet rich in animal proteins such as processed and unprocessed red meat and white meat, greatly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- High intake of plant protein was associated with a smaller risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Different dietary proteins play an important role in the risk of development of type 2 diabetes.
The research team from the University of Eastern Finland has found that plant protein was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while people on a diet rich in meat had a higher risk.
‘Diabetes risk can be reduced by replacing animal protein with plant-based proteins and eggs.’
Previous research had indicated that a high overall intake of protein and animal protein, and eating plenty of processed red meat was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
For the study the research team analyzed the association of dietary protein with the risk of type 2 diabetes in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD, which was carried out at the University of Eastern Finland.
The diets of 2,332 men were analyzed. They were aged between 42 and 60 years and did not have type 2 diabetes at baseline during 1984-1989. In the 19 year follow-up, 432 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The main source of plant protein in the study were grain products and others included potatoes and other vegetables.
The results showed that men who had the highest intake of plant protein were at 35% smaller risk of developing T2D compared with men who had lowest intake of plant proteins. These men with high intake of plant protein also led a healthy lifestyle.
A computational method was then used to estimate that if 5 grams of animal protein was replaced with plant protein daily, it would reduce the risk of diabetes by 18%.
The consumption of plant protein was also associated with lower blood glucose levels, which may explain the linkage of plant protein with reduced diabetes risk.
There was a strong association between high intake of meat and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The meat included processed and unprocessed red meat, white meat and variety meats.
The link between eating meat and a higher risk of diabetes is caused by other compounds found in meat, and not the protein as such in the meat.
The intake of overall protein, animal protein, fish protein or dairy protein were not associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. The proteins present in eggs also lowered the risk of diabetes.
It can thus be concluded that a diet high in plant protein may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition
- Heli E. K. Virtanen et al.Intake of different dietary proteins and risk of type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. British Journal of Nutrition; (2017) doi.org/10.1017/S0007114517000745