Diabetics cannot sufficiently utilise carbohydrates such as sugar, which is an important energy source. Insulin plays a significant role here as it is a blood-sugar reducing endogenous hormone and the production of insulin is lower in those affected. Furthermore, the cells in their bodies are not able to properly absorb the insulin that is available. The reason for this is the highly diminished sensitivity of the cells towards insulin.
The cell membranes are unable to recognise the hormone and therefore do not absorb enough of it. The consequence of this so-called insulin resistance is that not enough energy is produced in the cells. Moreover, sugar cannot properly be degraded in the blood and therefore accumulates so that the blood sugar level increases.
Another study by European researchers showed that the amino acid arginine is of great importance for the sensitivity of the body’s cells towards insulin. Arginine is a precursor of nitrogen oxide, a transmitting substance which has a direct influence on insulin sensitivity.
For the study, six type two diabetes patients were split into two groups. Both groups consumed a normal diabetic diet. One of the groups was administered a placebo to be taken three times daily for one month. The other group was administered arginine over the same time period. The insulin sensitivity levels in the patients were regularly tested by scientists throughout the course of the study.
Results were conclusive and showed that arginine improved the insulin sensitivity by more than 30 percent when compared to the placebo group. Arginine furthermore led to a considerable expansion of the blood vessels, allowing for the blood pressure in the patients to be reduced significantly.2 Two studies from 2013 have reached a similar conclusion.3,4 Another study has shown that arginine is also important in the treatment of diabetes-related foot diseases
Over the long-term, a constantly elevated blood sugar level can damage the vessels and lead to calcification and typical resulting illnesses such as stroke or heart attack. Diabetes mellitus type 2 is mostly associated with older people, as the insulin sensitivity in the cells decreases with age. A well-received study from 1998 showed that arginine can reduce insulin resistance, meaning in turn that insulin sensitivity can be increased.
Hoang, H. H., Padgham, S. V., & Meininger, C. J. (2013) L-arginine, tetrahydrobiopterin, nitric oxide and diabetes,
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, Volume 16, issue 1, (pp. 76-82)
Rajapakse, N. W., Chong, A. L., Zhang, W. Z., & Kaye, D. M. (2013) Insulin-Mediated Activation of the L-Arginine Nitric Oxide Pathway in Man, and Its Impairment in Diabetes, PloS one, Volume 8, issue 5