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Managing the Diabetic Diet--Higher Protein?

Higher protein diets for diabetics are being hailed as very useful in managing weight gain and reducing blood sugar spikes, particularly when higher protein breakfasts are eaten. But the latest research appears to show that not all proteins are created equal.

It turns out that one food item could be much better than others for managing blood sugar: whey protein powder. A study led by Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz and her team at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that diabetics who drank shakes containing whey powder for breakfast lost more weight over a period of four months and had better control of their blood glucose than those study participants who followed different diets.

Dr. Jakubowicz maintains that high-protein foods are safe and effective for managing diabetes, beginning with breakfast. Her recommendations are to consume a high-calorie protein breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and a small dinner. This diet proved highly successful for her study participants as a strategy for weight loss and Type 2 diabetes management.

Whey powder--a byproduct of milk during cheese production--induces greater satiety (feeling of having enough food) and a reduction in glucose spikes after meals than foods like eggs, soy protein or tuna. Her test subjects that consumed a breakfast shake made from whey protein powder lost the most weight over 12 weeks (an average of 16.7 pounds), felt most satisfied and less hungry during the day, and had lower after-meal glucose spikes than those in her other two groups--one of which ate a high carbohydrate diet and the other a high protein diet consisting of eggs, tuna and soy products.

The reason whey protein powder seems to work so well is that it suppresses the "hunger" hormone, ghrelin--a hormone produced by cells lining the stomach and pancreas. Without the overproduction of this hormone often seen in high carbohydrate diets (with subsequent overeating and weight gain), individuals have a reduction in hunger. And for diabetics, there is a reduction in HbA1C levels--a double win for individuals in general but most importantly for someone trying hard to manage his or her Type 2 diabetes.

The take away message for those of us in home care helping our diabetic clients better manage their disease and their diets is straightforward: Make sure they know of studies such as this and then help them make wise dietary and shopping choices. At AAging Better, we work hard to stay on top of the latest research and make sure our caregivers help our diabetic clients make wise choices when it comes to meal preparation and picking the right foods when we take them grocery shopping. It all comes down to making sure we offer the very best in-home care possible.

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