- People with type 2 diabetes have been shown to display significant reductions in insulin and enhanced insulin sensitivity with higher protein diets.
- This effect is more pronounced in individuals with a specific gene variant that increases blood vitamin D levels. However, the underlying genetic and biochemical mechanisms are not yet clearly understood.
- The “T” variant of the DHCR7 gene, which is involved in vitamin D synthesis, was found in most of the study participants. Those carrying this variant experienced greater improvements in insulin levels on a high-protein diet compared to an average-protein diet or individuals without the variant.
- While high-protein diets can contribute to weight loss and improvement in insulin levels, the long-term health effects are yet unclear. Thus, overall balanced diet and regular exercise are recommended for long-term health.
- It is recommended that most individuals aim to fulfill around 25% of their daily caloric intake with protein and achieve the recommended vitamin D consumption of 600 international units a day.
An increase in protein consumption could prove to be beneficial for some individuals living with type 2 diabetes—especially those possessing a specific gene linked to vitamin D metabolism, latest findings suggest.
The Link Between Protein Diet and Type 2 Diabetes
Investigations involving overweight adults with type 2 diabetes have shown weight loss to be consistent across individuals, regardless of whether they were on a high-protein, low-protein, high-fat, or low-fat diet. However, notable variations were observed in the insulin levels of individuals, which are integral in blood sugar regulation. The diminished sensitivity to insulin in type 2 diabetes leads to blood sugar and insulin production surges.
Interestingly, individuals demonstrated significant reductions in insulin and enhanced insulin sensitivity when they consumed higher-protein diets. These individuals possessed a specific gene variant that elevates vitamin D blood levels.
Understanding the Significance: An Expert’s Opinion
While this piques interest, the findings are not entirely clear yet, says leading investigator Qibin Qi, an assistant professor from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Furthermore, as individuals generally do not possess details about the genetic basis of their personal vitamin D metabolism, the practical application of this information remains limited. Professor Qi reinforces that we are currently in the conceptual phase of this particular study.
The Role of Vitamin D in the Human Body
While vitamin D is commonly recognized for its role in bone health, its functionalities spread across various aspects of our wellbeing, such as cell growth regulation, immune function, and inflammation, elucidates the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Professor Qi highlights studies connecting low vitamin D levels with an augmented risk of multiple chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
The Impact of Genetic Variations on Diet Response
The goal of the current investigation was to discern if genetic differences in vitamin D metabolism influenced the response of individuals with type 2 diabetes to varying weight-loss diets. 645 overweight and obese adults participated in this experiment, sticking to one of the four lowered-calorie diets for a period of two years. The protein content in these diets varied, with two of them being high-protein (25% of daily calories from protein) and the other two being average-protein diets (15% of calories from protein).
The Findings: How do Genes Play a Role in Insulin Improvement?
All diets turned out to be similarly effective for weight loss, aiding participants in reducing an average of 8 to 10 pounds. Genetic differences in vitamin D did not affect overall weight loss. However, genes did appear to play a role in enhancing insulin levels, shares Professor Qi.
The gene in question is DHCR7, responsible for vitamin D synthesis in our bodies. The majority of the study’s participants carried the gene variant “T,” known to increase vitamin D blood levels. These individuals exhibited greater enhancements in insulin levels with the high-protein diet in comparison to both the average-protein diet and to individuals who did not carry the “T” variant, as per the study’s find.
While the reasoning behind this remains murky, Professor Qi proposes that high-protein food items like specific types of fish and fortified dairy products, which are good vitamin D sources, could be contributing to a higher vitamin D level in those possessing the “T” variant. This might, in turn, improve people’s insulin sensitivity.
A Balanced Diet: The Key to Long-Term Health?
The final impact of a high-protein diet on individuals’ long-term health remains unclear. But as all diets effected similar weight loss, Professor Qi believes that the overall dietary pattern is more important than a single nutrient. He recommends a balanced diet coupled with regular exercise.
Dr. Maria Pena, a weight management specialist, aligns with this view. “Eating a balanced diet—high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbs as opposed to processed carbs—is the most important thing,” she said. Most people should aim to fill around 25% of their daily caloric intake with protein. Moreover, ensuring you get the recommended amounts of vitamin D, either from food or multivitamins, is advisable. For most individuals, the U.S. government advises consuming 600 international units a day.
Your guide to healthy protein selection is provided by the American Diabetes Association.