The impact of protein on insulin dosing

In a fast-paced world where many people eat on the go, little time is spent wondering whether we are getting the recommended daily intake of nutrients from our food and how it can affect our bodies’ performance. People living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), on the other hand, require structured meal planning and a solid understanding of how carbohydrates can impact their blood sugar levels in order to avoid complications such as hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Recently, investigators have been examining evidence that suggests fat and protein can also affect glucose levels, and need to be considered when calculating insulin dosing. According to a new study partly funded by JDRF, researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia have discovered that people with T1D need nearly 50% more insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable mostly in the two hours following a high-protein meal. This is the first study to observe insulin requirements for a high-protein meal compared with a low-protein meal, when carbohydrate and fat content are kept the same.

Eleven teenage participants ate pasta meals that contained 30g of carbs, 8g of fat, and then either 60g or 5g of protein for the high-protein and low-protein meals respectively, a week apart. The researchers then measured how much insulin was needed and when for the teenagers to maintain stable blood glucose levels during and after the meals.

According to their findings, while needs did vary greatly among participants, they required on average 54% extra insulin following the high-protein meal compared with the low-protein one. These results demonstrate that carbohydrates are not the only food group that affects glucose levels and insulin dosing.

Further research will be necessary before the development of new recommendations around the optimal timing of insulin delivery to manage high-protein meals.

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