Proteins and fats enhance insulin, enabling personalized diets

Proteomic markers predict personalized insulin response to nutrients.


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Most people focus on carbs when managing blood sugar, but new research from the University of British Columbia highlights the importance of proteins and fats for some individuals. Published in Cell Metabolism, the study is the first large-scale comparison of insulin production in response to carbs, proteins, and fats.

The findings show that insulin production is more dynamic and individualized than previously thought, revealing a subset of people who are highly responsive to fatty foods.

Dr. James Johnson from UBC said “that glucose is known to drive insulin. However, we were surprised by the high variability in response to proteins and fats among individuals. Insulin impacts health in conditions like diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. These findings could lead to personalized nutrition to better manage these conditions.”

Researchers tested pancreatic islets from 140 deceased donors, exposing them to carbs, proteins, and fats and measuring the insulin response and 8,000 other proteins.

Most donor islet cells had the most potent insulin response to carbohydrates. However, about 9% responded strongly to proteins, and 8% were more responsive to fats than glucose.

Understanding individual insulin drivers could lead to personalized diets for better blood sugar management. In donors with Type 2 diabetes, islet cells responded poorly to glucose but well to proteins.

“This supports the idea that protein-rich diets could benefit Type 2 diabetes patients and underscores the need for more research on protein-stimulated insulin secretion,” said Dr. Kolic.

The team analyzed proteins and gene expression in pancreatic islet cells, revealing details about insulin production. In the future, genetic testing could determine which macronutrients trigger a person’s insulin response. Next, the researchers plan to conduct clinical studies and develop personalized nutrition approaches based on their findings.

Journal reference:

  1. Jelena Kolic, WenQing Grace Sun, et al., Proteomic predictors of individualized nutrient-specific insulin secretion in health and disease. Cell Metabolism. DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2024.06.001.