18 Jun 2015

Protein, Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 18 June 2015

By Ruth Beran

Novel research testing the effects of protein and exercise on type 2 diabetics is being conducted at Massey University.

This is probably the first time it’s been done well in a human diabetics cohort"
Kim Gaffney, Massey University

Previous research has been conducted in athletes, healthy populations or in animals.

The trial is testing whether consuming a milk protein supplement after exercise speeds up the capacity for diabetics to consume sugar. “So after they eat a meal, their capacity to actually tuck that sugar away into the muscle tissue should have been enhanced,” says exercise physiologist Kim.

Half of the thirty participants are taking the supplement, and half are on a placebo, and even Kim doesn’t know which participants are taking the supplement.

A photo of Ganesan Vadiveloo on the exercise bike with Shanggari Venugopal on the left and Kim Gaffney on the right

Ganesan Vadiveloo on the exercise bike with Shanggari Venugopal on the left and Kim Gaffney on the right Photo: RNZ / Ruth Beran

The supplement is a whey protein, mainly because it is inexpensive, and people tolerate it well. There’s also evidence to suggest that milk proteins like whey protein have a powerful effect on vascular and skeletal muscle, and Kim says, vascular tissue delivers the insulin and the glucose to the muscle where it gets stored.

A photo of Colin Daley on an exercise bike with PhD student Adam Lucero

Colin Daley on an exercise bike with PhD student Adam Lucero Photo: RNZ / Ruth Beran

Participants are placed on an exercise regime which consists of cycling on an exercise bike three days a week, and strength training twice a week for ten weeks. The program is based around high intensity sessions, because there is evidence to suggest that even short sessions can have a big effect on metabolism. Participants have one 60 second interval of high intensity cycling then 60 seconds of low intensity for 20 minutes, as well as lighter weights but high repetitions in interval style fashion in the weights training sessions.

For Colin Daley, a participant in the study, the sessions are a challenge but they have given him a better approach for monitoring his sugar levels. He’s also making progress physically in being able to meet the demands required of him.

Colin hasn’t seen any weight loss though from the exercise regime, but Kim says that weight loss is not a specific aim of the program partly because there is no intervention with the participants’ diet. “We’re just asking them to maintain their normal diet, good or bad, and we’re looking to see whether just the exercise alone will have an effect and whether that’s enhanced by the supplement,” says Kim.

In fact, Kim says that sometimes participants will even gain weight, but this is usually because they have grown some muscle while body fat has decreased.

For a lot of diabetics, exercise can be a struggle, and Kim is happy that the participants are sticking to the program.

We haven’t had anyone drop out of the program. It’s certainly achievable to exercise five days a week,” says Kim. “They’re short intensive sessions so they don’t seem to impact much on their lifestyle. They can fit it in that time, and get a really good effect.”