Key amino acid could fight diabetes better than drugs

The amino acid arginine, found in foods like salmon, eggs and nuts, can help the body metabolize glucose just as well as established diabetes drugs, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that arginine improved glucose metabolism in both lean (insulin-sensitive) and obese (insulin-resistant) mice.

Insulin secretion

For many years, scientists have known that arginine is an important part of insulin secretion, but the latest findings show that the process is indirect: Arginine's ability to secrete the intestinal hormone GLP-1 subsequently affects insulin secretion.

After subjecting mice to a glucose tolerance test, researchers found that the amino acid was just as effective at improving glucose metabolism as popular drugs on the market.

"We have demonstrated that both lean and fat laboratory mice benefit considerably from arginine supplements," study author Christoffer Clemmensen said in a statement. "In fact, we improved glucose metabolism by as much as 40 percent in both groups."

The role of GLP-1

GLP-1 plays an important role in appetite regulation and glucose metabolism, the researchers noted, which is why it's used in many drugs that treat type 2 diabetes.

So will a diet rich in arginine treat the disease? Not quite, the authors said.

"You cannot, of course, cure diabetes by eating unlimited quantities of arginine-rich almonds and hazelnuts," Clemmensen wrote. "However, our findings indicate that diet-based interventions with arginine-containing foods can have a positive effect on how the body processes the food we eat."

The findings raise questions about the ability of other amino acids to do what arginine does, as well as which intestinal mechanisms are responsible for arginine's stimulation of GLP-1.

The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.

Source: Science Daily

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