Diabetic neuropathy: a diet rich in amino acids reduces pain in mice

Diabetic neuropathy: a diet rich 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 a monofilament odiatrist who treats the feet during the procedure.  Neurologist doctor examining female patient

Diabetes can cause nerve damage


Dietary supplements of the amino acid serine may relieve 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 of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and colleagues measured levels of protein-building molecules called amino acids in obese mice genetically engineered to have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

They found that, compared to mice without either condition, those with diabetes had, on average, lower levels of the amino acids serine and glycine. A later analysis suggested that this is because insulin is needed to prevent the breakdown of those amino acids.

The team then fed 10 nondiabetic mice a diet without serine or glycine for a year and 10 nondiabetic mice a standard diet. On average, mice in the first group took longer to retract a paw from a heated laser than mice in the other group, indicating more nerve damage. When viewed under a microscope, their legs also had reduced nerve fiber 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 mice. from the serine group. control group

These findings suggest that increasing serine levels, either through dietary supplements or targeted drugs, could improve the condition, Metallo says. However, people with diabetic neuropathy should not rush to take serine supplements, as more research is needed to establish a safe dosage and potential side effects, she says.

The findings also suggest that 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 make them within the body,” says Metallo, which means levels are rarely closely monitored. “But this highlights that the metabolism of non-essential amino acids can [also] cause defects.”

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