Diabetes, characterized by sustained high blood sugar levels, goes far beyond being a metabolic problem. both in the medium and long-term circulatory systems such as the nervous system are affected by this defect in glycemic control.
It is known that diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular events, but it is also known about 50% of people with type 1 or 2 diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy, It is characterized by weakness, numbness and pain, especially in the hands and feet.,
, diabetic foot” Specifically, it is characterized by damage to the nerves in the extremities, a fairly common nerve and skin problem caused by sustained high blood sugar levels. Now, a new study by the Salk Institute points to another factor. managed to identify what would contribute to peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetes: changes in amino acid metabolism,
The study, recently published in the journal Nature, uses diabetic rats to draw two relevant conclusions. First, rodents with low levels of two related amino acids, serine and glycine, the risk of peripheral neuropathy will increase. and if their diet were supplemented with serineSymptoms improved.
This would not be the first study to suggest that some “non-essential” amino acids comply an important task in the health of the nervous system. In fact, since these amino acids do not need to be consumed through the diet and the body can produce them, it is usually underestimated role in general health.
Remember that amino acids are building blocks of protein and special fatty molecules known as sphingolipids, which abound in the nervous system. Low levels of the amino acid serine force the body to use other amino acids For sphingolipids, changing their structure. Over time, these atypical sphingolipids accumulate, causing peripheral nerve damage.
While it is true that researchers observed this accumulation of atypical sphingolipids in diabetic rats, it is known that there a rare human genetic disease characterized by peripheral sensory neuropathy. The same process occurs in human patients suffering from it, which would indicate that it is a consistent phenomenon across different species.
To test whether chronic serine deficiency could cause peripheral neuropathy, a team of researchers led by Christian Metallo, a professor in Salk’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, administered two groups of mice to either a control diet or serine-free diet, then he added low or high-fat diet For a maximum period of 12 months, half the life expectancy of these rodents.
According to their findings, a low-serine, high-fat diet Will accelerate the onset of peripheral neuropathy in rats. In contrast, supplementation with serine will slow the progression of neuropathy and improve its symptoms. Subsequently, the researchers also tested the compound miriosinWhich inhibits the enzyme that converts serine to another amino acid in atypical sphingolipids.
The treatment was also successful in reducing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in rats that were fed a low-serine, high-fat diet. But, essentially, these findings would confirm the importance of amino acid metabolism and its production healthy sphingolipids Within the health of the peripheral nervous system. This would be especially important in cases of diabetes.
In fact, serine deficiency has also been linked other neurodegenerative disorders, In previous studies, Metallo and colleagues also observed that altered serine and sphingolipid metabolism would be associated with telangiectasia macular type 2, a disease that causes vision loss. In mice, a serine deficiency will lead to an increase in atypical retinal sphingolipids and reduced vision.
Currently, treatment of peripheral neuropathy is usually a combination of diet to lower blood glucose levels, the use of analgesics, physical treatment and mobility aids. But it doesn’t focus on improving serine consumption in general or supplementing it, something the researchers don’t recommend at this time because it would be premature with only one study.
As a curiosity, foods rich in serine include soy, nuts, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, meat and fish, These are foods that will be sufficient in almost any diet, but for the time being they should not be used as supplements until there is more evidence in this regard.