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Plant-derived protein may lower risks of type 2 diabetes, new study finds

A study by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland suggests the importance of eating protein sources for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Earlier research on the association of animal versus plant protein with death risk showed that plant protein was associated with lower mortality, especially from cardiovascular disease – a common diabetes complication.

This new study assessed the long-term health outcomes linked to the intake of proteins from different sources, including plant, meat, dairy and egg, for the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers followed 2,332 middle-aged Finnish men for almost 20 years, all of whom took part in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study, and had been getting the bulk of their protein from either animal or plant foods.

During the study, 432 participants went on to develop type 2 diabetes, and a number of apparent associations were observed between the types of protein ingested and type 2 diabetes risks. These associations were drawn from food questionnaires filled out by participants.

Plant protein was associated with lower blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study, while those with the highest intake of plant protein had a 35 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest intake of plant protein.

When considering the origin particularities of the animal proteins consumed by all these men, meat or dairy product protein intakes were not associated with a significantly higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, it was the consumption of plant protein that carried the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes, while egg protein intake appeared to be the second best option.

Through computational projections, researchers were able to determine that replacing one per cent of daily calories from animal protein (approximately five grams) with plant protein was associated with an 18 per cent decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The findings appear online in the British Journal of Information.

For more information on eating a healthy diet to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes, visit our award-winning Low Carb Program.


Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

  • Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as insulin resistance and/or
  • Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

From this, it can be understood that for someone with diabetes something that is food for ordinary people can become a sort of metabolic poison.

This is why people with diabetes are advised to avoid sources of dietary sugar.

The good news is for very many people with type 2 diabetes this is all they have to do to stay well. If you can keep your blood sugar lower by avoiding dietary sugar, likely you will never need long-term medication.

Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence mainly in people over 40. However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more common in young adults, teens and children and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.

How serious is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition that often requires the use of anti-diabetic medication, or insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. However, the development of type 2 diabetes and its side effects (complications) can be prevented if detected and treated at an early stage.

In recent years, it has become apparent that many people with type 2 diabetes are able to reverse diabetes through methods including low-carb diets, very-low-calorie diets and exercise.

For guidance on healthy eating to improve blood glucose levels and weight and to fight back against insulin resistance, join the Low Carb Program.

Following pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes can potentially be avoided through diet and exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and convert it into energy.

Ineffective use of insulin results in the body becoming resistant to insulin – also known as insulin resistance, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

In advanced stages, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production for your body’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing type 2…

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