Targeting carbohydrate digesting enzymes as a treatment for diabetes

Researchers have found a way to switch on and switch off the enzymes responsible for digestion of carbohydrate.
The body has four enzymes which work in the small intestine to break down starch. The enzymes, called alpha-glucosidases, each work in different ways, converting the carbohydrate into different forms of sugar and at different rates.
People with type 2 diabetes have difficulty keeping blood glucose levels sufficiently low following carbohydrate based meals as their body is less able to respond to the insulin which it releases following such a meal. Researchers at the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University hypothesise that by inhibiting the enzymes that more quickly convert carbohydrate into glucose, the effect of carbohydrate based meals would not be so severe on blood glucose levels.
The process might also allow the body to delay digestion so that it is carried out further down the small intestine. This method has previously been successfully used in bariatric surgery, whereby parts of the small intestine have been bypassed, to improve sugar levels and weight management of people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes.
The research is currently at an early stage, with the study having been carried out on a simulated gastrointestinal tract. The study, titled ‘Modulation of Starch Digestion for Slow Glucose Release through ‘Toggling’ of Activities of Mucosal á-Glucosidases’ was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

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