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Lifestyle & Diet for Increasing/Decreasing C-Peptide Levels

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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C-peptide

C-peptide points to how much insulin the body is making. Both high and low levels can negatively impact your health. Abnormal levels are usually due to underlying health issues which usually require medical attention. But there are some lifestyle and dietary changes you can implement to balance insulin production and improve your pancreatic health. Read on to learn more.

What is C-Peptide?

C-peptide is a reliable measure of insulin production by the beta cell of the pancreas [1, 2].

If you are looking to learn more about C-peptide and what can cause high or low levels, read our post about C-peptide here.

In this article, we’ll first brush up on the basics. Then we’ll jump to the lifestyle and dietary changes that you can make to improve your pancreatic health.

Function in the Body

C-peptide was initially considered inactive and scientists didn’t pay much attention to it. Later studies revealed that this peptide can both reduce and worsen inflammation – depending on its levels [3, 4, 5].

C-peptide is tightly linked to the health of the pancreas and its ability to make insulin.

The beta cells in the pancreas don’t create active insulin straight away. They first produce “proinsulin,” which breaks down to equal amounts of insulin and Cpeptide [1, 2].

In a nutshell, you’d want Cpeptide (and insulin production) to be balanced neither too high nor too low.

High levels can signal obesity, insulin resistance, and kidney disease. Overall, high C-peptide worsens inflammation and has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and even the likelihood of dying from any cause [6].

In diabetics, the reverse happens: C-peptide tends to decline over time.

In type 1 diabetics, an autoimmune response can eventually destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. As a result, C-peptide becomes either really low or undetectable [2, 7].

Having detectable C-peptide levels in type 1 diabetes is good: it means the pancreas is still producing some insulin. Plus, studies suggest that these detectable (low-normal) levels of C-peptide are anti-inflammatory. They have been linked to fewer health complications and the lower insulin therapy requirements in type 1 diabetics [2, 7].

Increasing C-Peptide Levels

Low C-peptide is most often due to an underlying condition, such as type 1 diabetes or pancreatic disease, which if left untreated can have serious consequences. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to work with your doctor to find out what’s causing your low C-peptide levels and to treat any underlying conditions.

The additional lifestyle changes listed below are other things you may want to discuss with your doctor. None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes!

1) Exercise

If you are otherwise healthy but your C-peptide levels are low, exercise can help [8].

In a study of 1,700 elderly people, exercise increased C-peptide levels in those whose levels were initially low [8].

2) Honey

Honey may protect your pancreas. It’s a great substitute for sugar in moderation.

In a study of 80 people, honey increased C-peptide levels much better than glucose or table sugar (sucrose) in both healthy people and those with type 1 diabetes [9].

3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These are abundant in fatty fish and algae.

In 90 pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, DHA and EPA omega-3 supplementation increased C-peptide levels [10].

4) Niacin

Nicotinamide (niacin) can help increase pancreatic beta-cell function.

Niacin supplementation over a year increased C-peptide levels in 36 patients with recent onset type 1 diabetes [11].

However, some studies in people with high cholesterol suggest that niacin can increase blood sugar levels and insulin resistance [12].

That’s why it’s best to take niacin, and all other supplements in fact, under medical supervision.

5) Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplementation increased C-peptide levels in a study of 328 people [13].

Researchers pointed out that vitamin D deficiency may be to blame in some cases of impaired insulin production and low C-peptide. In line with this, getting more sun could also be a good strategy to naturally increase your vitamin D and C-peptide levels [13].

Decreasing C-Peptide Levels

High C-peptide can be due to insulin resistance and obesity, which can usually be managed relatively well with lifestyle and dietary modifications. However, high C-peptide can also be due to more serious underlying conditions, such as kidney disease or insulin-producing tumors. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor to find out what’s causing your high C-peptide levels and to treat any underlying conditions.

The additional lifestyle changes listed below are other things you may want to discuss with your doctor. None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes!

1) Exercise

Exercise is great because it can balance C-peptide levels. If your levels are low, exercise can increase them, and if your levels are high, exercise helps decrease them [8].

In a study of 1,700 elderly people, those who engaged in vigorous physical activity had lower C-peptide levels than those who engaged in light or no physical activity [8].

Similarly, high physical activity was related to lower C-peptide levels in 199 children [14].

Two studies with 29 inactive people in total discovered that a single moderate-intensity exercise session can improve blood sugar control and decrease C-peptide and insulin levels. But the effect was modest and short-lived. That’s why it’s important to exercise regularly [15].

2) Weight Loss

Weight loss helps decrease insulin resistance, insulin, and C-peptide levels [16, 17].

In 52 obese children, a 10% drop in BMI was associated with 35% lower C-peptide [18].

3) Less Carbs

When you eat carbs, your blood sugar increases, and insulin and C-peptide increase in response. Decrease carbs in favor of fats and proteins in your diet.

In 20 healthy volunteers, meals containing fewer carbs and more protein and fat caused less of an increase in C-peptide levels [19].

In 24 overweight and obese people, a high-fat meal (with unsaturated fats) was more effective in lowering C-peptide levels than a high-protein meal [20].

4) Fiber

A fiber-rich diet can help decrease urine C-peptide and blood sugar levels. But not all fibers are created equal. Researchers discovered that fibers from beans and lentils are beneficial, whereas cereal fiber isn’t [21].

5) Replacing Sugar With Honey

Not all sugars are created equal either. Whenever possible, replace sugar with honey. According to a study in 12 healthy people, honey causes less of an insulin and C-peptide spike [22].

6) Fasting

Fasting and calorie restriction may be good strategies for lowering C-peptide levels if you have insulin resistance and/or are overweight.

In 12 women with rheumatoid arthritis, calorie restriction and fasting decreased urine C-peptide levels by more than 50% during the fasting periods [23].

Similarly, blood and urine C-peptide levels decreased after fasting and calorie restriction in two studies with 21 obese people in total. It took 5-7 days for C-peptide levels to reach a steady state on the new diet [24, 25].

Diet restriction also decreased urine C-peptide levels in 40 people with type 2 diabetes [26].

Fasting seems to have a stronger effect on urine than on blood C-peptide levels [25].

7) Coffee

Research suggests that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee can help decrease C-peptide levels.

In over 2k healthy women, those who drank more coffee, caffeinated or decaf, had lower C-peptide levels. C-peptide was 16% lower in women who drank >4 cups/day compared with nondrinkers. This effect was even stronger in overweight and obese coffee drinkers, who had 20 – 27% lower C-peptide levels [27].

8) Seafood

Scientists in Norway observed 20 healthy adults on a balanced diet where most (60%) of their protein came from either lean seafood or non-seafood sources. They uncovered that proteins from lean seafood can lower C-peptide levels [28].

9) Calcium and Vitamin D

Check your calcium and vitamin D levels.

In a review of 2 studies with almost 900 men and 2,000 women, those with the highest calcium intake and blood vitamin D levels had significantly lower fasting C-peptide levels (35% in men and 12% in women) [29].

However, in another study of 328 people, vitamin D supplementation was linked to higher C-peptide levels [30].

The best way to increase your vitamin D is to get more sun.

10) Avoid Niacin Supplements

Take niacin supplements with due caution and only when prescribed by your doctor.

Niacin can increase glucose and insulin levels [31, 32, 33].

In a study of 17 postmenopausal women, niacin supplementation resulted in higher insulin and C-peptide levels [34].

Takeaway

Doctors use C-peptide to measure how much insulin your body is making and how well your pancreas is working. If your levels are out of balance, the most important thing is to work with your doctor to find out what’s causing abnormal C-peptide levels and to treat underlying health issues. Abnormal-C peptide levels can be due to serious conditions that, if left untreated, may have dire consequences.

For conditions such as insulin resistance and obesity, lifestyle and dietary changes may go a long way. Exercise, replacing sugar with honey, and sun exposure may help balance both high and low levels. For high levels, intermittent fasting, weight loss, and reducing carb intake are among the other strategies that can also be of benefit.

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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