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Sports supplement may help manage diabetes


Steve Spinks
9 January 2014
A popular sports supplement may help in the fight against type 2 diabetes, according to research from Southern Cross University.

Principal researcher, Honours student Rhenan Nealon from the School of Health and Human Sciences, conducted a month-long pilot study on the effects of Beta-Alanine (Body Science) supplementation on exercise capacity and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes and the results were encouraging.

“This study has provided new evidence that Beta-Alanine supplementation can increase exercise capacity in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” he said.

“Moreover, there was a significantly greater reduction in fasting blood glucose in the Beta-Alanine treatment group than the placebo treatment group after 28 days of supplementation. Increases in exercise capacity after Beta-Alanine supplementation were strongly related with reductions in fasting blood glucose.

“Type 2 diabetes is often treated with exercise therapy to reduce body fat, 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.

“In this trial, participants have shown an increase in exercise capacity without even partaking in a structured exercise program.”

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

The research was partly-funded by industry partner Body Science International, who also provided the supplements.

The pilot study saw subjects giving blood for analysis and subjecting themselves to a treadmill exercise test before and after 28 days of a supplementation plan. Participants were not asked to change any aspect of their daily life other than take the supplements.

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.

Photo: Rhenan Nealon.