Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. But there are warning signs you can heed before diabetes develops.
Prediabetes, as the name implies, is the lead-up to diabetes. Your blood sugar is elevated, but not enough (yet) for diabetes to be diagnosed.
But it can stop right there. Being prediabetic does not sentence you to a life of monitoring blood sugar and working to avoid deadly complications.
One big way to lower your risk is to maintain a healthy weight. But the older we get, the more challenging it can be to shed extra pounds.
An enzyme you’ve probably never heard of can help. It’s in all of your cells, but if you’re over 50, your supplies are decreasing daily.
What if there were a natural way to boost your supply of this “diabetes buster” and put it to work for you?
That’s what a group of Harvard researchers was hoping to find, and they hit the jackpot.
Flipping the AMPK switch
Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK for short) is an enzyme found in every cell in the body. It is like the “master switch” that determines how our bodies process energy.
AMPK is an anti-aging enzyme. It helps us maintain muscle mass as we get older, helps control weight gain, and inhibits inflammation.
It also fights diabetes in several ways. AMPK reduces insulin resistance, lets our cells use glucose more efficiently (thus preventing too-high levels of blood sugar), and helps us to use stored fat as energy, promoting a healthy weight and fending off obesity.
Metformin, a drug used to prevent diabetes in those at high risk, is known to activate AMPK. But metformin comes with some nasty side effects, including nausea, fatigue and weight gain.
Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, wondered if there were specific nutrients that could switch on AMPK just as well as metformin.
They tested many amino acids in rat liver cells, and found that alanine could do the job, in mouse and human liver cells as well as with rats.
Not only that, but when mice were fed alanine right before they ate glucose, their blood sugar levels were significantly lower. This was true whether the mice were thin or obese.
This is exciting news! What if you could take a safe oral supplement before a meal to control blood sugar levels? More tests are needed, both on mice and humans, but the Harvard researchers are hopeful that this will lead to a way to prevent diabetes without side effects.
Other ways to boost AMPK
Several other natural substances you’re already familiar with have been investigated and shown to play a role in boosting AMPK, or in helping it work to control blood sugar.
Curcumin. No surprise here. Curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian spice turmeric, has so many health benefits! It treats depression, protects your skin from UV rays, and helps prevent breast cancer, among other things.
Curcumin has been shown to activate AMPK, and to help moderate the long-term effects of diabetes.
Quercetin. This antioxidant is used to treat asthma and gout, and is a powerful inflammation fighter. It also increases AMPK in fat, muscle and liver cells.
Quercetin is found in bananas, apples, buckwheat and yellow peppers.
Exercise. AMPK is stimulated by muscle contraction, which explains the anti-aging effect of staying physically active. In particular, high intensity interval training (HIIT) activates AMPK.
Editor’s note: Did you know diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke? In fact, it can set you up for cancer and Alzheimer’s too. It has to do with your master hormone’s role in helping to disease proof your body. Click here to learn more…
- Nutrients may reduce blood glucose levels — American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
- How To Activate the Little Known Enzyme That Promotes Weight Loss and Longevity — Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC
- AMPK and Aging — Life Extension®
- Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells — Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
- The anti-obesity effect of quercetin is mediated by the AMPK and MAPK signaling pathways — Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications