Is protein insulinagenic? How the gut impacts the insulin response of food.

There are several well known advocates of low carb eating that also claim that protein is of no concern when it comes to weight loss or insulin response. They almost always use the same study to fluff up their point of view. You will always see this graph.

glucose/insulin/glucagon response to IV injected protein (Alanine)

This shows that an injection of the amino acid (protein) Alanine has no significant insulin response while it does have a glucagon response and a blood glucose response. The glucose response is to be expected by anyone who understands the physiology here. No insulin response but a glucagon response means a net rise in glucose levels as there is no insulin to push the glucose into the cells. There are a few problems with using this study as proof that protein does not have an insulin response.

This is a study on dogs and normally I don’t consider studies done on animals as evidence of something in humans this is probably still going to be the same effect in humans. That is not the real issue. The real issue is that the protein is being injected intravenously and that bypasses one of the most crucial factors of the insulin response. The Incretin Response.

The Incretin Response takes place in the gut and is responsible for the bulk of the insulin secretion. If something does not pass through the gut then we do not get the majority of the insulin response.

Insulin response to IV glucose vs oral glucose

You can see in the chart above there is a dramatic difference in the insulin response to IV glucose vs oral. That is because the incretin response in the gut is responsible for most of the effect. This makes perfect sense. You would not want endogenously created glucose to stimulate a large insulin response. The whole reason for endogenous glucose creation is to bring up blood glucose levels. If this glucose had an insulin response it would just be shunted away into the cells again and this would result in unstable glucose levels.

Now that we know that IV injected glucose does not have the same insulin response as oral glucose, due to the incretin affect in the gut, why would we assume that protein injected isn’t the same situation? Are these people purposely misleading us into thinking protein is not insulinagenic? I doubt it. It just goes to show that just because someone is well known or even that they are a “real” scientist that they can miss very crucial points.

I have yet to be able to find a study showing the incretin affect on protein but we have already seen the effect on glucose. Now we can see one on fat as well. If a clear difference in insulin response can be seen between oral and IV glucose can be seen and a clear difference in insulin response can be seen between oral and IV fat can be seen then why on earth would protein be any different? It isn’t.

So yes, protein has an insulin response as does everything. Even fat has a small insulin response. Insulin is largely responsible for shuttling nutrients into cells so if there was no response to protein then we would not be able to absorb it. Why this is so complicated I have no idea. Using a dog study with injected amino acids does not prove in any way that protein is not insulinagenic.

In closing, I want you to look at those people that claim that protein is not a problem in weight loss. Have they ever had a weight problem? It is easy to claim something is not a problem when you have never had to experience this problem in the first place. Just because they can eat protein by the pound and don’t have a problem with weight does not mean someone that has been dieting for 20 years and has difficulty losing weight will not have a problem with it. I can eat all the protein I want as well and not gain weight but I am not you. I also workout 2 hours a day and have 12% bodyfat. If that is you then you likely don’t have a problem with unlimited protein either.

Keto ON Friends,

Coach Jack

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