Diets high in animal and plant protein lead to similar benefits in type 2 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 14 Feb 2017
Diets high in animal and plant protein lead to similar benefits in type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes who eat a diet high in animal protein experienced similar health improvements to those who ate more plant protein, according to new research.

German scientists compared isocaloric diets (diets with the same level of calories) in 44 people with type 2 diabetes, all of whom had HbA1c levels above 6% (42 mmol/mol), and found higher consumption of animal protein or plant protein led to improvements in metabolism and cardiovascular risk factors.

The isocaloric diets, which differed in amino acid composition, contained 30 per cent of energy either as animal or plant protein, along with 30 per cent fat and 40 per cent carbohydrates.

In a six-week study, researchers at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Postsdam-Rehbruecke compared the two groups, assessing changes to health markers such as insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

There were significant improvements for HbA1c and diastolic blood pressure among the plant protein group, but not the animal protein group. Conversely, the animal plant protein group experienced more significant improvements to insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose levels.

Before this study, the researchers had hypothesised that plant protein-based diets were metabolically advantageous compared to animal protein diets. But the similar benefits indicate that the differences in amino acid composition do not affect metabolic responses to the diet changes.

"Diets containing plant protein [have previously been] shown to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease while animal protein rather increased such incidences," said the study authors. "Unexpectedly, our data showed a similar improvement in glycemic and metabolic control in both dietary groups.

"High plant protein diets were not superior to high animal protein diets and only minor differences were observed suggesting that the differences in amino acid contents do not explain metabolic responses."

The findings appear online in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

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