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June 9, 2021
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Akshay ChopraFounder - We R Stupid
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One of the most commonly asked questions about whey protein consumption is whether diabetics can take whey, or is whey protein safe for diabetics ? The answer is: Absolutely Yes. Here’s why…

Whey protein is the high biological, a high quality and value protein which is good choice for the people who are diabetics. Whey protein helps to control the blood glucose levels and also provides additional beneficial for weight management which is a concern for type-2 diabetics.

There has, however been a controversy as whey is said to raise blood sugar levels and is highly insulinogenic. But the studies say something else. 

whey is said to raise blood sugar levels

The study from where this controversy began was actually a study on mice:

In a 2012 study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, a European research team led by Swedish researcher Albert Salehi examined the effects of these whey’s action on insulin secretion in mice, as compared to the effects of white bread.

Research showed that while whey protein causes an increase in serum levels of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, it also causes an increase in the hormone glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). The most interesting finding in this study is that not only did whey protein caused an increase in serum insulin levels, it caused an increase of insulin, GIP. GLP-1 greater than carbohydrates from white bread.

However, multiple human studies eventually cleared the entire picture…


In a 2013 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition , researchers studied the possible relationship between whey intake and glycaemic-, insulinemic- and amino-acid responses. Twelve healthy volunteers participated in the study. They were provided three whey protein drinks, containing 4.5, 9 or 18g protein as breakfast meals in random order. All meals contained 25g available carbohydrates (glucose).

The two highest doses, 18g and 9g, significantly reduced postprandial glycaemia. The 18g dose significantly increased the insulin response. Though this effect was not seen in the 9g dosage.

postprandial glycaemia
Postprandial Glycaemia

In a 2014 study in the journal Diabetologia , 15 type 2 diabetics consumed on two separate days, 50g whey in 250 ml water or placebo (250ml water) followed by a standardised high-glycaemic-index breakfast.

The results showed that over the whole 180 min post-meal period, glucose levels were reduced by 28% after whey. Insulin and C-peptide responses were both significantly higher (by 105% and 43%, respectively) with whey. Thus, whey protein may therefore represent a novel approach for enhancing glucose- lowering strategies in type 2 diabetes.

In a 2016 study in the journal Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, US researchers Rachel L. Adams & Kenneth S. Broughton found that the majority of data support the addition of whey protein to the diet for an improved glycaemic response in patients with acute and chronic hyperglycaemia. There appears to be significant potential for the use of whey protein as a preventative measure in individuals who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In a 2017 study in the journal British Medical Journal Open Diabetes Research & Care, a US research team, led by Rogelio U Almario investigated the effect of whey protein on blood sugar. For the study, 22 patients with type II diabetes, were administered whey protein or a placebo. To answer the question, Is whey protein safe for Diabetics , Researchers found that, whey protein can lower blood glucose in type 2 diabetes.

In a 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, an Australian research team, led by Sebely Pal evaluated the effects of whey protein supplementation on body composition, lipids, insulin and glucose in comparison to casein and glucose (control) supplementation in overweight/obese individuals for 12 weeks. The subjects were divided into whey protein, casein or glucose supplementation groups.

Subjects supplemented with whey protein had no significant change in body composition or serum glucose at 12 weeks compared with the control or casein group. Fasting triglycerides levels were significantly lowered in the whey group compared with the control group at 6 weeks and 12 weeks. There was a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol at week 12 in the whey group compared with the casein and control groups. Fasting insulin levels scores were also significantly decreased in the whey group compared with the control group. The study demonstrated that supplementation with whey proteins improves fasting lipids and insulin levels in overweight and obese individuals.

In a 2018 study in the journal Nutrients, a Danish research team, led by Ann Bjornshave determined whether a whey protein pre-meal prior to a fat-rich meal influences triglycerides and apolipoprotein responses differentially in patients with and without type 2 diabetes. In two groups of 12 subjects with and without T2D, a pre-meal of whey protein (20g) or water (control) was consumed 15 min before a fat-rich meal (supplemented with 20g whey protein in case of water pre-meal).

A whey protein pre-meal significantly increased postprandial concentrations of insulin, glucagon and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) in subjects with and without Type 2 diabetes. In conclusion, the whey protein pre-meal induced similar hormone and lipid responses in subjects with and without type 2 diabetes. Thus, the whey protein pre-meal enhanced insulin, glucagon and GIP responses but did not influence lipid or glucose responses.

type 2 diabetes

In a 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a Swedish research team, led by A.H. Frid evaluated whether supplementation of meals with a high glycaemic index (GI) with whey proteins may increase insulin secretion and improve blood glucose control in type 2 diabetic subjects. Fourteen subjects with type 2 diabetes were served a high-GI breakfast (white bread) and subsequent high-GI lunch (mashed potatoes with meatballs). The breakfast and lunch meals were supplemented with whey on one day; whey was exchanged for lean ham and lactose on another day.

Researchers found that, the insulin responses were higher after both breakfast and lunch when whey was included in the meal than when whey was not included. After lunch, the blood glucose response was significantly reduced after whey ingestion. It can be concluded that the addition of whey to meals with rapidly digested and absorbed carbohydrates stimulates insulin release and reduces postprandial blood glucose rise in type 2 diabetic subjects.

In a 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a British research team, led by D.G. King investigated postprandial glycaemic and appetite responses after small doses of intact and hydrolysed whey protein co-ingested with mixed-nutrient breakfast and lunch meals in 11 men with type 2 diabetes. Subjects consumed 1) intact whey protein (15g), 2) hydrolysed whey protein (15g), or 3) placebo (control) immediately before mixed-macronutrient breakfast and lunch meals, separated by 3h. 

The consumption of a small 15g dose of whey protein immediately before consecutive mixed-macronutrient meals improves postprandial glycaemia, stimulates insulin release, and increases satiety in men with type 2 diabetes

Acc. to a 2018 study in the Proceedings of Nutrition Society , acute whey protein supplementation around meal times appears to improve postprandial glycaemia in normal weight, overweight and obese and T2D patients.

A 2020 meta-analysis study in the journal Lipids in Health & Disease assessed the effects of whey protein on lipoproteins and glycaemic status in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS) and related disorders. Analysis of app. 22 studies indicated that consumption of whey protein resulted in significant reduction of HbA1c, insulin and insulin resistance. A significant reduction in triglycerides levels, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol levels  and total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol ratio was found as well.

Acc. to a 2015 study in the World Journal of Diabetes whey protein can be used to manipulate gut function in order to slow gastric emptying and stimulate incretin hormone secretion, thereby attenuating postprandial glycaemic excursions. Whey protein is also a rich source of amino acids, and these can directly stimulate beta cells to secrete insulin, which contributes to the reduction in postprandial glycaemia. Appetite is suppressed with consumption of whey, due to its effects on the gut-brain axis and the hypothalamus. These properties of whey protein suggest its potential in the management of type 2 diabetes.


After reading multiple studies above, we can clearly answer the question Is whey protein safe for diabetics ?

Whey helps lower post-meal glucose rise and enhance the insulin response. It helps improve fasting lipids and insulin levels in overweight and obese individuals.

Thus whey is not just safe, but extremely beneficial for diabetics.

Akshay Chopra

Akshay Chopra is a renowned fitness professional, a speaker , a writer and the owner of Indias research based platform, Werstupid. He has been transforming lives, and has addressed many a people with motivational words. Known as the Encyclopaedia of Fitness Industry, his knowledge is unparalleled.

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