High Protein Diet and Diabetes: Benefits and Side Effects

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By : dLife Editors

There’s much discussion about diets with high protein and diabetes.

Diets rich in protein for type 2 diabetes patients are controversial. High protein diets have been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers and heart disease. However, the diet has been appreciated as it leads to weight loss and lowers carbohydrate intake. When excess protein is consumed, it is converted into glucose and is used as a source of fuel or stored as fat.

People on a high-protein diet get about 55% of their energy from proteinous sources like milk, cheese, legumes, soy, eggs, chicken, and fish. Recommendations for protein range from about 10 to 25% of the total source of energy or about 1.2 gram of protein per kilogram each day, which is a moderate intake of protein. So, a person who weighs about 70% should eat 70 grams of steak daily because it’s run in “exchanges.”  One protein “exchange” contains 8 grams of protein. One protein exchange equates to these food portions:

  • ½ cup of legumes or beans
  • 40 grams of fish
  • 30 grams of cheese, chicken or meat
  • 1 chicken drumstick
  • 1 egg

Benefits of High Protein:

Now let’s look at the benefits of a high protein diet in diabetics:

  • Reduced appetite – A high protein / low carbohydrate diet causes ketosis. The body changes from burning carbohydrates or energy to burning fat, producing ketones that suppress the appetite.
  • Protein take a longer time to digest, makes you full for a longer period of time.
  • Improved blood lipid level.
  • Improvement of insulin and control of blood glucose.
  • Loss of weight- high protein diet results in loss of weight and the reason is that individuals begin to consume less carbohydrate, which results in loss of water.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that people are different, and so these benefits may not be true for all individuals.

 Side Effects of a High Protein Diet:

  • Higher intake of fat from animal protein source (cholesterol and saturated fats), which results in excess fat and calories.
  • Often leads to the elimination of complete food groups or typically restrictive
  • Increased excretion of calcium: can affect bone health, and so requires more intake of calcium to compensate for the losses.
  • Adverse effects: constipation, dry mouth, hair loss, bad breath, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • In diabetics, excessive consumption of protein and low insulin level can lead to a greater conversion of proteins to glucose, which may have a negative effect on the control of blood glucose.
  • Weight loss is not necessarily sustained: weight is gained with the re-introduction of carbohydrates.
  • Not recommended for people with diabetic nephropathy, a situation in which high sugar level damages the kidneys, which reduces functioning; you may have to limit the amount of protein you consume because too much protein can worsen kidney damage.
  • Red meats are associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and a shorter life.

It is essential to consider all these factors when you decide to follow high protein diets. A moderate quantity of protein is vital for the health and needs to be included in most meals.  Be sure to check in with your diabetes care team to make sure your diet is balanced and right for your individual needs.  Read more about how to formulate a balanced diet, read about creating a healthy plate for diabetes here.


  1. WebMD.  “This Diet May be Dangerous with Heart Disease Risk.”  Accessed April 2, 2018.  https://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20150508/high-protein-diet-may-be-dangerous-for-those-at-risk-of-heart-disease#1
  2. Web MD.  “High Protein Diet for Weight Loss.”  Accessed April 2, 2018.  “https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/high-protein-diet-weight-loss