A new study has shown that a type of medication used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity can bring about improved insulin sensitivity, which helps to lower blood glucose.

Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists work on the metabolism, stimulating insulin secretion to lower blood sugar levels.

Dr Mona Mashayekhi, assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said of this latest study: “We know that GLP-1R agonists promote weight loss, but we were surprised to find that the GLP-1R agonist liraglutide also has rapid effects on insulin sensitivity, independent from weight loss.”

Insulin resistance or reduced insulin sensitivity is a trait of type 2 diabetes, so improving insulin sensitivity can help in the treatment of the condition or lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Dr Mashayekhi said: “Our research suggests that liraglutide, and presumably other GLP-1R agonists, are having important metabolic effects in a way that’s different from increasing endogenous GLP-1 levels, even though they’re using the same receptor.

“Future research will focus on potential mechanisms of how GLP-1R agonists are improving insulin sensitivity independent of weight loss.”

The study involved 88 participants with pre-diabetes and obesity who, for 14 weeks, received one of the following treatment options: the LP-1R agonist liraglutide; the dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4) inhibitor sitagliptin; or weight loss without drugs using a low-calorie diet.

Liraglutide proved to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose in the first two weeks of the study and before any weight loss occurred.

Dr Mashayekhi said: “GLP-1R agonists are an exciting class of medications, given their strong glucose-lowering effects combined with tremendous weight-loss benefits, and they have transformed how we manage diabetes and obesity in the clinic.

“Since the number of medications in this class is rapidly expanding, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of benefit is crucial so we can design the right drugs for the desired effects in the right patients.”

Read the full study in the journal Diabetes.

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