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Up your protein, lower your diabetes risk?

Pre-diabetes can often lead to diabetes, and pre-diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. Can switching out some carbs for protein help treat prediabetes?

Study under review: Remission of prediabetes to normal glucose tolerance in obese adults with high protein versus high carbohydrate diet: randomized control trial


Obesity and diabetes are major issues in the developed and developing world. Diabetes, once it manifests, can wreak havoc on circulation and cause a variety of complications, such as those shown in Figure 1. Diabetes is currently the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and the prevalence of both diabetes and prediabetes is on the rise.

Figure 1: Effects of diabetes

One way to help prevent diabetes is to identify people at risk by screening for a condition called “prediabetes.” Prediabetes is a condition characterized by higher than usual levels of fasting blood sugar, though not high enough to be called diabetes. This includes a fasting blood sugar of 100 – 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or an “anytime” blood sugar of 140-199 mg/dL. It can also be diagnosed if glycated hemoglobin (Hb A1c) is between 5.7-6.4%.

Most people diagnosed with prediabetes will develop diabetes within the next 10 years. However, if caught early, prediabetes and even early Type II diabetes can be reversed.

Two of the best ways to improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity are to exercise and lose weight. Naturally, many people who find out they have prediabetes want to alter their lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing diabetes. But, is there a way to tweak a healthy diet to further reduce the risk of diabetes?

The following study, from researchers at the University of Tennessee, sought to examine just that. Following a study the same authors published in 2013, showing that a high protein, low calorie diet improved insulin sensitivity in obese adults without diabetes or prediabetes, they wanted to determine how the same intervention might work in a population that had prediabetes.

The current study examined whether replacing some carbohydrate with protein could have positive outcomes on metabolic syndrome and glycemic control in obese patients with prediabetes.

Who and what was studied?

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