Diabetes control no better with high protein diet

1 April 2011

High-protein diets are no more effective than high-carbohydrate diets for improving glycaemic (blood sugar) control in people with type 2 diabetes, Australian research shows.

Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute researchers compared a high-protein diet with a high-carbohydrate diet in 99 overweight or obese type 2 diabetes patients over 12 months.

The patients received advice to follow a low-fat diet in which protein made up 30 per cent of total energy, or carbohydrate was 55 per cent of total energy.

There was no difference between the two groups in HbA1c, which fell by 0.23 units in the high-protein group and by 0.28 units in the high-carbohydrate group in the first 3 months.

(HbA1c, or glycosylated haemoglobin, measures how tight blood sugar control has been over the previous few months. A lower value indicates tighter control.)

Patients in the high-protein group lost 2.23 kg of weight after 12 months compared with 2.17 kg for those in the high-carbohydrate group, a non-statistically significant difference.

Serum triglycerides, total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol all improved over time to a similar extent in both groups.

No differences in kidney function or calcium loss were found, suggesting concerns about an association between high-protein diets and a decline in kidney function and increased calcium loss were unfounded, the authors said (Diabetologia 2011; 54:731-40).

The findings contrasted with other studies showing greater improvements in glycaemic control from high-protein diets.

"We recommend that future trials should focus on developing relevant skills to improve dietary adherence and self-management rather than modifying dietary composition", they said.

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