Diabetes & Protein


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Proteins are molecules main up of chains of smaller molecules known as amino acids that are folded in numerous different ways. Within the cells of your body proteins fulfil numerous vital roles depending on their structure (how the amino acids are lined up in the chain and how they are folded), where the protein is in the body and whether the protein has any other molecules or atoms bound to it. The functions of different proteins within the body include; acting as channels to allow other molecules into and out of cells, acting as enzymes to help other chemical reactions to take place, acting as signalling molecules (where they are released into the blood by one organ and sensed by another organ) and giving structure to cells (such as the proteins collagen and elastin) etc. For example, insulin is a protein made up of a particular sequence of amino acids that are folded in a certain way to allow insulin to act as a signalling molecule in your blood (a hormone) to tell your cells to absorb glucose (sugar) from your blood (thus reducing your blood sugar levels). There are only 20 different types of amino acids and your body is not able to make all of them, so some of the amino acids (known as essential amino acids) have to be taken into your body through your diet. If you are diabetic you may have heard numerous contradictory advice on what proteins you should and/or should not include in your diet. This is because any excess protein that you eat can be converted into glucose by your body and either released into your blood stream or stored. If this glucose is released into your blood stream then it will cause an increase in your blood sugar level that you will be unable to reduce due to your inability to either produce (in type I diabetes) or react to (in type II diabetes) insulin. If you are concerned about your control of your blood sugar level then you should discuss it with either your GP, diabetic nurse or your dietician as they will be able to give you personalised advice about the best foods to eat and how to regulate your diet (and possibly your insulin administration if you are a type I diabetic) in order to best control your blood sugar level. 


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