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Metabolic response of people with type 2 diabetes to a high protein diet

Frank Q Nuttall12* and Mary C Gannon123

  • * Corresponding author: Frank Q Nuttall

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Metabolic Research Laboratory, Endocrine, Metabolism & Nutrition Section, Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, USA

2 Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, USA

3 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2004, 1:6  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-6

Published: 13 September 2004



One of the major interests in our laboratory has been to develop a scientific framework for dietary advice for patients with diabetes. Knowledge regarding the metabolic consequences and potential effects on health of protein in people with type 2 diabetes has been a particular interest.


We recently have completed a study in which dietary protein was increased from 15% to 30% of total food energy. The carbohydrate content was decreased from 55% to 40%, i.e. dietary protein replaced part of the carbohydrate. This resulted in a significant decrease in total glycohemoglobin, a decrease in postprandial glucose concentrations and a modest increase in insulin concentration. Renal function was unchanged.

Currently we also are determining the metabolic response to a diet in which the carbohydrate content is further decreased to 20% of total food energy. The %tGHb decrease was even more dramatic than with the 40% carbohydrate diet.


From these data we conclude that increasing the protein content of the diet at the expense of carbohydrate can reduce the 24-hour integrated plasma glucose concentration, at least over a 5-week period of time. The reduction was similar to that of oral agents. Renal function was not affected significantly. Thus, increasing the protein content of the diet with a corresponding decrease in the carbohydrate content potentially is a patient empowering way of reducing the hyperglycemia present with type 2 diabetes mellitus, independent of the use of pharmaceutical agents.