Exercise has repeatedly been shown in studies to benefit people with type 2 diabetes, but by varying degrees. Now, researchers from Massey University’s School of Sport and Exercise have discovered a protein that may help to ease these differences, so that more diabetics gain in the glucose control brought on by regular exercise.
In an ongoing study, the researchers — Martin Gram, Lee Stoner and David Rowlands — are examining whether a keratin-derived protein extract developed in New Zealand could enhance the benefits of exercise in type 2 diabetes patients. The study, “Can protein supplementation combined with a 14 week exercise program improve glucose tolerance in older adults with type-2 diabetes?”, is showing promising results, they said.
Taking place in New Zealand, the study is currently recruiting sedentary people, ages 35 to 65, with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis but not on insulin treatment. It runs for 17 weeks and includes 14 weeks of supervised exercise. Throughout, health tests are given to evaluate the effects of the training and protein intervention.
Four of eight participants who completed the study are reported to no longer qualify to be considered type 2 diabetic, as their sugar levels are now below 50, according to preliminary study results.
“One of our participants who has now completed taking part in the study, says he is sleeping much better and he finds his alertness and concentration have improved,” Gram said in a press release. “Another came on board at a time where her doctors wanted her to go on insulin treatment as her sugar levels had been increasing at an alarming rate. At completion of the study she experienced a massive drop. Naturally she felt fantastic when she got the results from her blood test, and her aim now is to get it even lower.”
The beneficial effects are thought to be caused by the unique amino acid and mineral composition of the protein, which may protect the body’s tissues through anti-oxidant mechanisms.
“Ingestion of the keratin protein may help diabetics lower blood glucose levels,” Gram said. “Consequently, the study will provide an opportunity to assess this promising practical, natural and non-drug intervention for diabetic therapy.”
Type 2 diabetes, which is estimated to affect 7% of all people in New Zealand, is the consequence of a reduced ability of the body’s tissue to take glucose (sugar) out of the blood stream – most glucose is normally absorbed and used by skeletal muscle. This deficit increases a person’s risk of eye and kidney damage, as well as heart disease.