Diabetes is becoming more common globally, with some experts predicting a doubling of worldwide diabetes cases in the three decades between 2000 and 2030. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects a similar trend for the United States, where the number of people with diabetes could triple by 2050. Many people at risk for diabetes are adopting healthier lifestyles, while those already diagnosed with diabetes search for ways to avoid the complications of their disease. L-glutamine supplementation could prove useful for some diabetics, but ask your doctor if it is appropriate for you.
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. Aside from its role in helping to build proteins, L-glutamine is an important source of fuel for your cells, particularly those of your intestine and immune system. L-glutamine also helps regulate the release of hormones that control glucose metabolism, an important consideration for diabetics. Under normal circumstances, your body can synthesize enough L-glutamine to meet your needs, but illness, injury and prolonged stress can lower your L-glutamine levels and increase your requirements.
Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that is released into your bloodstream in response to rising blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the cells in your liver, muscles and fat tissue to absorb and metabolize glucose, thereby decreasing your serum glucose level. Type 2 diabetics are typically insulin resistant, meaning their cells do not respond normally to insulin’s signals. Type 1 diabetics often become insulin resistant due to the development of antibodies that destroy the insulin they take; this is not true insulin resistance, but it does increase their insulin requirements. Therefore, enhancing insulin sensitivity is a goal of treatment in both types of diabetes, and L-glutamine could prove useful in this regard.
Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and typically decreases blood glucose levels in both diabetic and nondiabetic subjects. A 2010 study performed at Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, demonstrated that glutamine supplementation enhanced the glucose-lowering effects of exercise in adolescents with type 1 diabetes, indicating an insulin-sensitizing effect of L-glutamine. Another study, published in the February 2011 issue of “Endocrinology,” showed that L-glutamine triggers the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1, from intestinal cells of mice. GLP-1 is secreted by your intestine in response to elevated blood glucose levels, mirroring insulin’s release from your pancreas. Like insulin, GLP-1 lowers your blood glucose level.
L-glutamine exerts a variety of effects in your body, with its eventual metabolic fate being guided by your cells’ needs at any given moment. L-glutamine may improve insulin sensitivity and enhance glucose metabolism in diabetics, but its use in this regard has not been extensively studied. Therefore, it isn’t known if L-glutamine supplementation is good for all diabetics, and the optimal doses of L-glutamine needed to favorably affect glucose metabolism are undetermined. In the Nemours Children’s Clinic Study, patients received two daily doses of 0.25 g/kg – about 17 grams for a 150-pound individual – while doses of 1 to 2 grams daily are commonly used for other purposes. Ask your physician about the best L-glutamine dosage for your specific needs.
- “Diabetes Care”; Global Prevalence of Diabetes; S. Wild, et al.; May 2004
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Number of Americans with Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Glutamine
- “Endocrinology”; Glutamine Triggers and Potentiates Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Secretion by Raising Cytosolic Ca2+ and cAMP; G. Tolhurst, et al.; February 2011
- “Diabetes Care”; Effects of Glutamine on Glycemic Control During and After Exercise in Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes; N. Mauras, et al.; September 2010