The question of whether essential amino acids and diabetes had a relationship was a question asked by researchers at the Biochemistry Research Department, part of the Vision Research Foundation in Chennai, India. What they wanted to look at was testing of free amino acids in type 2 diabetic patients to see if oral supplementation would affect these patients.

Diabetes is a disease where too much sugar (glucose) is in the blood. Some people can have type 1 diabetes from childhood, or get it later, but type 2 diabetes is more common, and is typically developed, chronic, and lifelong as well. Technically diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease, where the body is unable to produce enough (or any) insulin, which causes these very high glucose levels in blood plasma of patients who have it.

In 2007, the amount of people diagnosed with diabetes, who were 20 years or older, equaled about 1.6 million. Today, in the United States alone, about 7.8 percent of the population—approx. 23.6 million people—have this serious and lifelong disease. The question of essential amino acids and diabetes comes into play because of glucose and insulin.

Insulin, the pancreas, and glucose

Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas, which must be present in order for glucose to get into our cells (used by the body as food). However, with diabetes, the produces little to no insulin, so the cells do not respond properly, then glucose builds up in the blood and is excreted through the urine; therefore, even though the body has a large amount of glucose, all of that energy is lost. The hope, according to the scientists in India who wanted to test essential amino acids and diabetes, was that amino acids might help with blood glucose levels.

Essential amino acids and diabetes

In a pilot clinical trial the researchers, Sulochana K Natarajan, S Lakshmi, et al., had tested the glucose levels in the blood plasma of Streptozotocin-induced rats that were diabetic. Whether essential amino acids and diabetes, where the former would affect the latter, were related was the question, so they designed an oral test to determine if the effect of such amino acid supplements would help patients that had type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM).

77 subjects with type 2 diabetes participated for two months in a double blind pilot clinical trial. Both sexes, between the ages of 30-60, were involved in the trial and received oral antidiabetic tablets. The essential amino acids and diabetes link was examined by dividing the patients into two groups based on oral supplementation.

The supplements for essential amino acids and diabetes testing included:

1. Lysine

2. Essential amino acids

3. Amino acids and (fat-and-water-soluble) vitamins

4. Calcium phosphate (the control)

Regarding essential amino acids and diabetes, “essential” means that these aminos must be gotten from food or supplements since the body cannot produce them on its own.

Essential amino acids typically include:

Arginine
Carnitine
Histidine
Homocysteine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Lysine
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Taurine
Threonine
Trypthophan
Valine

The scientists tested the subjects who had essential amino acids and diabetes were examined for: fasting and post-prandial plasma glucose, plasma amino acids, glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting and post-prandial immunoreactive insulin, urea and creatinine in plasma and sugar, proteins and albumin, plus ketones and proteins.

The results of the trial “revealed a significant decrease in post-prandial plasma glucose (P<0.05) in group B when compared to groups C and D after 45 days. Plasma Arginine was increased in group C from 3.84 to 9.24 mg/dl.” Additionally, the patients having oral essential amino acids and diabetes (type 2) showed a “decrease … [in] plasma glucose without any change in plasma insulin levels, perhaps due to improved insulin sensitivity.”

Although this is good news regarding essential amino acids and diabetes, the long term effects of essential amino acids needs continued study.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11887024

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/