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Diabetic neuropathy: Diet high in amino acids reduces pain in mice

Eating more of the amino acids serine and glycine decreased the amount of nerve damage and pain in mice with diabetes


25 January 2023

The doctor examines the nerve response with monofilament odiatrist treating feet during procedure. Doctor neurologist examining female patient

Diabetes can lead to nerve damage


Dietary supplements of the amino acid serine may ease diabetes-related nerve pain, according to research in mice.

Nearly half of people with diabetes have neuropathy – a condition in which nerve damage causes weakness, pain and numbness, usually in the hands and feet.

Christian Metallo at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues measured levels of protein-building molecules called amino acids in obese mice genetically engineered to have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

They found that, compared with mice without either condition, those with diabetes had, on average, lower levels of the amino acids serine and glycine in their tissues and blood plasma. Further analysis suggested this is because insulin is necessary for preventing the breakdown of those amino acids.

The team then fed 10 non-diabetic mice a diet without serine or glycine for a year and 10 non-diabetic mice a standard diet. On average, the mice in the first group were slower to retract a paw from a heated laser than those in the other group, indicating greater nerve damage. When viewed under a microscope, their paws also had reduced nerve fibre density, suggesting that serine and glycine deficiencies contribute to neuropathy.

A separate group of 17 mice with type 2 diabetes ate either a serine-enriched diet or a standard diet for eight weeks, after which, those in the serine group retracted their paw from the laser about 1 second faster, on average, than those in the control group.

These findings suggest that increasing serine levels either through dietary supplements or targeted drugs could improve the condition, says Metallo. However, people with diabetic neuropathy shouldn’t rush to grab serine supplements, as more research is needed to establish a safe dosage and potential side effects, he says. The researchers also looked at glycine supplementation in a separate study but haven’t published the results yet.

The findings also suggest we may need to rethink how we view certain nutrients. “Serine and glycine are non-essential amino acids, so we consume them in our diet, but we can also produce them within the body,” says Metallo, meaning levels are rarely monitored closely. “But this highlights that the metabolism of non-essential amino acids can [also] cause defects.”

More on these topics:

Source link A recent medical breakthrough by researchers at the University of Montreal has shed light on the possibility of combatting diabetic neuropathy through increased dietary intake of amino acids.

Diabetic neuropathy is a disorder in which nerve damage is caused by chronically high blood sugar levels. This affliction can be a major source of chronic pain for many people, with affected areas running from the feet up through the legs, arms, and torso. Unfortunately, managing diabetic neuropathy can be quite challenging, as conventional medications often either fail to reduce the pain or deliver side effects that limit the patient’s ability to manage their condition.

However, researchers at the University of Montreal have uncovered a potential solution through the use of dietary intervention. In a study involving mice, which were bred to have diabetes, the researchers found that increasing dietary intake of amino acids had a marked effect in reducing their levels of chronic pain.

The study found that increases of essential amino acids, particularly lysine and arginine, had therapeutic effects upon the mice’s nerve-related symptoms. These diets helped to significantly reduce the pain experienced by the rodents. In some cases, changes in dietary intake of amino acids were even able to reduce the animals’ symptoms to levels comparable to healthy mice.

The findings from the study suggest that dietary intervention, particularly through increased intake of essential amino acids, may be an effective means of managing and reducing the chronic pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. Future studies are needed to further investigate the potential of amino acids to treat the condition in humans, but the results of this research offer a glimmer of hope for people suffering from this debilitating condition.

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