Print Friendly, PDF & Email

There have been a couple of prospective studies or what we are now going to call “Methodist ministers and Cuban rum” studies recently on protein intake and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Nuts - plant protein

  • The findings of the University of Eastern Finland study in the British Journal of Nutrition suggest the source of dietary protein may play a role in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that replacing animal protein with plant protein was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 
  • The findings of a prospective study and meta-analysis of the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher intakes of total and animal protein were both associated with increased risks of type 2 diabetes, whereas higher plant protein intake tended to be associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 

What the researchers have found are actually correlations not “findings” in the sense of answers or causation. Certainly, diets high in plant protein such as wholesome whole foods like beans, chickpeas and lentils seem to be protective of a number of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes. They are also generally low GI. Diets rich in animal protein don’t seem to convey the same advantage and numerous prospective studies over the years show this. Perhaps the saturated fat in meat has something to do with it. Saturated fat does contribute to insulin resistance making the poor old pancreas work harder pumping out more insulin. It’s also worth remembering that the Insulin Index of Foods published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that any type of meat (beef, chicken, and pork) produced substantial insulin secretion.

What next? Prospective studies like these are useful for developing hypotheses that can then be put to the test with randomised controlled trials.

The studies 

A new industry analysis by Rabobank suggests sugar’s swoon appears to be passing a tipping point reports ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle. Food marketers are bowing to consumer pressure and driving sugar out of products, even in developing markets. For more than a decade now, the reputation of sugar as the primary culprit behind obesity trends has been growing. U.S. consumption of added sugars and sugar sweetened beverages peaked at the turn of the millennium. But the market for sugar continued to grow in developing markets. That refuge for marketing sugary foods is fading away.


The Rabobank report describes a cycle of consumer preferences. At its heart, this is a story of steadily rising global obesity rates, finger pointing, and the repercussions of consumers cycling through a love/hate relationship with the three macronutrients – carbohydrate, fat, and protein – and, in the process, demonizing certain foods. Currently, protein is on the rise (certainly in North America and Europe), as sugar, sugar-containing products, and other highly refined carbohydrates are increasingly cast as the main villain in the unremitting rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome rates. A “clean label” with a short ingredient list is the imperative that food companies are chasing. Added sugar will drop out. Artificial sweeteners are scary, so they aren’t coming back, either.

Now that global food makers are bowing to the storm of pressure that started with public health advocates, what are those advocates saying? Tom Farley, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, says it will take many years before any of this has an impact on public health. He says: “Sugar is a problem, but sugar is not the only problem.” In responding to doubts about the impact of Mexico’s sugar sweetened beverage tax, Barry Popkin and colleagues recently wrote: “The obesity epidemic will take decades to slow down, stop, and finally reverse itself, but other benefits might be seen sooner.” In other words, don’t hold your breath for health miracles from declining trends in sugar consumption.

To read more 

Ted Kyle is a healthcare professional experienced in collaborating with leading health and obesity experts for sound policy and innovation to address health needs and the obesity epidemic in North America. Through ConscienHealth, he works to advance changes in policy and public opinion that will allow new approaches to be developed and put into use.


Azmina Govindji

“I welcome this unique set of data, which provide local populations with a practical and more effective way of controlling their blood glucose levels,” says award-winning Registered Dietitian Azmina Govindji (a media spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association and NHS Choices who was Chief Dietitian to Diabetes UK for 8 years).

“Eating well is about enjoyment, nutritional balance, and also cultural appropriateness. There is a growing incidence of diabetes in UAE and up until now, we’ve only had nutritional and GI information on Western-style foods.

Accurate analysis of the glycaemic impact of locally available produce, as well as dishes cooked using traditional methods, can help people with diabetes make more informed choices about local cuisine. This new research will fill an important gap, enabling healthcare professionals to have a more effective means of providing tailored dietary advice.

The data shows, for example, that foods like khameer bread and beef harees perform well on the GI scale, whereas regag bread and beef thareed are best saved for special occasions.”

GI values of 18 Emirati foods

Test method: For each test food, at least fifteen healthy participants consumed 25 or 50g available carbohydrate portions of a reference food (glucose), which was tested three times, and a test food after an overnight fast, was tested once, on separate occasions. Capillary blood samples were obtained by finger-prick and blood glucose was measured using clinical chemistry analyser. A fasting blood sample was obtained at baseline and before consumption of test foods. Additional blood samples were obtained at 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 min after the consumption of each test food. The GI value of each test food was calculated as the percentage of the incremental area under the blood glucose curve (IAUC) for the test food of each participant divided by the average IAUC for the reference food of the same participant.