Amino acid shown to improve pre-diabetes in laboratory rodents

Many health experts have cited high-fat American diets as one of the reasons why a growing number or people in the U.S. are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

This is because obesity has been associated with insulin resistance, and the National Institutes of Health reports that more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

However, a recent study published in the journal PLoS One found that doubling the dietary intake of an amino acid in mice that consumed high-fat food helped lower the rodents' indicators of pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

The researchers explained that leucine is found in proteins and previous research has shown that it affects insulin signaling in the body.

Therefore, the scientists fed a group of mice a high-fat diet that contained double the amount of leucine than they would normally consume through their regular eating habits.

The study's results showed that this change helped the mice lower their blood sugar levels and reduce the amount of fat in their liver.

"We found that adding just this one amino acid to the diet changed the metabolism in a lot of different pathways. It had effects that improved insulin sensitivity, improved their ability to metabolize sugar and fats and their overall metabolism," said lead researcher C. Ronald Kahn, MD.

While this effect has not been proven in humans, the investigators said their findings may help reduce the number of people who progress from having pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes in the future.

Many physicians recommend that their patients who have pre-diabetes follow a strict diabetic diet and exercise regimen in order to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes. This includes limiting their intake of sugar, saturated fats and alcohol in addition to engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, the American Diabetes Association explains.