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Sports supplement may help manage diabetes


Steve Spinks
23 April 2013
Southern Cross University researchers are investigating whether a popular sports supplement can help in the fight against type 2 diabetes.

Principal researcher, Honours student Rhenan Nealon, said the aim of the research was to determine if a month long regimen of beta-alanine supplementation could improve exercise capacity and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. The research is supported by industry partner BodyScience International.

“Beta-alanine is a natural amino acid that is found in chicken, beef, pork and fish. It has been shown to improve exercise capacity and athletes have used it extensively as a supplement when training. It has also been shown to increase muscle carnosine, a substance shown to be reduced in people with type 2 diabetes,” he said.

“The novelty here is that carnosine may help increase physical capacity in diabetic exercisers which may translate to improvements in insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels. Diabetes Australia emphasises how important exercise is for the management of type 2 diabetes.

“Indeed, type 2 diabetes is often treated with exercise therapy to reduce body fat, particularly targeting intramuscular triglyceride, which has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal.

“However, some people with type 2 diabetes find physical activity particularly difficult, and exercise therapy is often a slow process, which may impede a sufferer’s ability to perform exercise and lead to a loss of motivation.

“An aid that increases exercise capacity and enhances insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes sufferers would be highly valuable and may reduce the time taken to achieve good physiological outcomes.”

The research team aims to recruit people with type 2 diabetes over the age of 18 who are willing to perform a treadmill exercise test and have blood drawn before and after a 28 day beta-alanine supplementation plan. Participants will be asked not to change any aspects of their daily living, other than taking the supplements each day. All testing will be completed at the Lismore campus.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus accounts for nearly 90 per cent of all diabetes cases. It is characterised by insulin resistance and is a common result of many lifestyle and genetic factors. Approximately one million people in Australia and 347 million people worldwide have diabetes. It is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and can lead to many other chronic conditions. A Diabetes Australia report estimated the disease cost Australia $10.3 billion in 2008, with costs expected to rise annually with 280 Australians developing the disease every day.

For further information or to participate in the research, please contact Rhenan Nealon on 0435 781 500.

Photo: Researcher Rhenan Nealon, right, attaches equipment to a participant.