Effects of Quality and Quantity of Protein Intake for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Prevention and Metabolic Control


Purpose of Review

The aim of this review is to evaluate the ideal protein quality and quantity and the dietary composition for the prevention and metabolic control of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).


Although some reviews demonstrate the advantages of a diet with a higher protein intake, other reviews have observed that a diet high in carbohydrates, with low-glycaemic index carbohydrates and good fibre intake, is equally effective in improving insulin sensitivity.


Over 2831 articles were screened, and 24 from the last 5 years were analysed and summarised for this review, using the protein, diabetes and insulin glucose metabolic keywords in Pubmed in June 2019.


Eleven studies demonstrate that a higher consumption of proteins has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity. A higher intake of animal protein seems to be related to an increased risk of T2DM. Four studies show that consumption of meat has a deleterious effect. Higher intake of plant protein and dairy products is associated with a modestly reduced risk.


Based on the results obtained, for the prevention of T2DM and all disorders related to metabolic syndrome, no ideal dietary composition has yet been found. The advantage of plant protein sources may be related to the foods’ low-glycaemic index due to the high fibre content. However, the right protein quality (animal and plant) and the quantity for T2DM prevention and metabolic control are unclear and need to be investigated with further long-term studies.

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Fig. 1



Type 2 diabetes mellitus


Insulin resistance


Insulin sensitivity


Glycaemic index


Randomised controlled trial


Metabolic syndrome


Cardiovascular disease


High-protein diets


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data or analysis and interpretation of data: ML, CM, GA, and AB. Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content: ML, CB, EP, DDM, MC, and AB. Final approval of the version to be published by all authors.

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Correspondence to Mauro Lombardo.

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Lombardo, M., Bellia, C., Moletto, C. et al. Effects of Quality and Quantity of Protein Intake for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Prevention and Metabolic Control. Curr Nutr Rep (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-020-00324-2

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  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Protein
  • Quality
  • Intake
  • Diet