- Prediabetes is curable with exercise and a healthy diet, but once it progresses into diabetes, it is significantly harder to treat.
- A drug already used for obesity and diabetes can help to prevent progression into diabetes when combined with diet and exercise.
- Patients given liraglutide were 80 percent less likely to develop diabetes and prediabetes was reversed in 60% of patients.
- Liraglutide mimics the effects of GLP-1, a hormone released in response to food, and interacts with the brain's hypothalamus to suppress appetite.
Prediabetes affects one in ten people in the UK, and progresses into diabetes in 5-10 percent of patients within ten years. A drug which suppresses hormones produced by the gut, was tested on overweight people with prediabetes.
Liraglutide Suppresses Appetite
‘Liraglutide, an appetite suppressing drug given to treat obesity helps prevent diabetes and reverse high blood glucose levels.’
Professor Carel le Roux from Imperial College London and colleagues have found that a drug already used for obesity and diabetes can help to prevent progression into diabetes when combined with diet and exercise, and could even treat patients with prediabetes altogether.
The researchers recruited 2,254 obese adults with prediabetes at 191 research sites in 27 countries worldwide. After splitting participants into two groups, they studied whether adding daily self-administered injections of liraglutide to diet and exercise helped to prevent progression into diabetes, compared to diet and exercise alone.
After three years, the researchers found that the patients given liraglutide were 80 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those in the placebo group. In 60 percent of those patients, prediabetes was reversed and patients returned to healthy blood sugar levels.
Of the patients who did go on to develop diabetes, those who were given liraglutide took nearly three times longer to develop the disease than those in the placebo group.
In addition, liraglutide was linked to greater sustained weight loss after three years compared to placebo, with those on liraglutide losing 7 percent body weight compared to 2 percent body weight in the placebo group.
Co-author Professor le Roux, from Imperial's Department of Medicine, said: "These groundbreaking results could pave the way for a widely used, effective, and safe drug to reverse prediabetes and prevent diabetes in 80 percent of at-risk people. This could improve the health of the population and save millions on healthcare spending."
How Does Liraglutide Work?
Professor le Roux added that the drug seems to work by mimicking the action of naturally-produced hormone that suppresses appetite, called GLP-1. This compound is released in response to food, and interacts with the brain's hypothalamus to suppress appetite.
However previous studies have found that many obese people produce less of this hormone, which may lead to them over-eating. Liraglutide mimics the effects of GLP-1, essentially doing the hormone's job to regulate appetite.
Professor le Roux said: "Liraglutide promotes weight loss by activating brain areas that control appetite and eating, so that people feel fuller sooner after meals and their food intake is reduced. Although liraglutide's role in weight loss is well known, this is the first time it has been shown to essentially reverse prediabetes and prevent diabetes, albeit with the help of diet and exercise."
- Carel le Roux et al., Type 2 diabetes prevented in 80 per cent of at-risk patients thanks to repurposed drug, The Lancet (2017).