Botox and Type 2 Diabetes, An Unlikely Connection
Scientific research sometimes uncovers some unlikely connections, such as one between Botox and type 2 diabetes. A new study reports that it appears a better understanding of the proteins affected by injections of the wrinkle relaxer could help scientists develop new ways to treat the metabolic disease.
What does Botox have to do with diabetes?
Botox (onabotulinumtoxin A) is perhaps best known as an injectable substance that can temporarily reduce or eliminate wrinkles as well as treat medical conditions, such as migraine, urinary incontinence, and crossed eyes, among others. In each of these cases, Botox works because it has a paralyzing effect: that is, it relaxes specific muscles, which then provides the desired relief.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, there are no muscles to relax, but there are proteins called SNARE (Soluble NSF Attachment Protein Receptor) involved, and that appears to be the connection. Here’s a brief explanation of that relationship.
Botox seeks out SNARE proteins, which then prevents them from assisting muscle contraction. However, in people who have type 2 diabetes, something else may occur when Botox meets up with the SNARE proteins in the beta cells in the pancreas, which are the cells that produce insulin, because SNARE proteins in beta cells help release insulin.
According to Dr. Colin Rickman and his team at Heriot-Watt University, experts do not yet fully understand how SNARE proteins are responsible for the secretion of insulin. However, once researchers more thoroughly understand SNARE proteins and insulin and explore what happens in type 2 diabetes, “this could lead to new methods of diagnosis, prevention of the cells’ failure that leads to diabetes and also treatments for type 2 diabetes.”
While this new research is an important step toward better understanding type 2 diabetes and how to treat it, scientists still have a lot of work ahead of them as they prepare to observe SNARE proteins in cells for the first time and try to understand how these proteins are responsible for the secretion of insulin. Rickman noted that full results of these evaluations should be ready by early 2015.
Other insulin helpers for type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means their cells do not respond properly to the hormone insulin, which is needed to transport glucose (sugar) into cells. Instead, the cells are insulin resistant and thus unable to use the hormone effectively.
Diet, exercise, medication, and natural supplements are all ways individuals with type 2 diabetes can help reduce insulin resistance. In the latter category, here are a few options:
- Resveratrol, an active agent found in grapes, red wine, and berries, has been shown to improve insulin resistance. A study appearing in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that resveratrol may stimulate the protein Akt phosphorylation, which helps cells take in sugar.
- Fenugreek is an herb associated with anti-diabetes properties. One study noted that fenugreek seeds contain 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which suppressed progression of type 2 diabetes in mice by improving insulin sensitivity and the uptake of sugar by cells.
- Chromium, a trace mineral important for human health, has long been linked to type 2 diabetes, usually in the form of chromium picolinate. However, at least one study has found that a new chromium supplement containing chromium, niacin, and L-cysteine, improved insulin resistance and fasting insulin levels by about 30 percent when compared with baseline.
- Vitamin D is being shown in an increasing number of studies that it can help improve insulin resistance. Since most people do not get enough vitamin D, including people with type 2 diabetes, it is important to make an effort to get more sun exposure and/or take vitamin D supplements.
While we wait for researchers to find new effective ways to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, those who have the disease need to work with what is known. Anyone who has type 2 diabetes should be sure to talk to their healthcare provider before making any changes in their diet, exercise routines, and use of medications and/or natural supplements.
Brasnyo P et al. Resveratrol improves insulin sensitivity, reduces oxidative stress and activates the Akt pathway in type 2 diabetic patients. British Journal of Nutrition 2011 Aug; 106(3): 383-89
Jain SK et al. Effect of chromium dinicocysteinate supplementation on circulating levels of insulin, TNF-a, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic subjects: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2012 Aug; 56(8): 1333-41
Singh AB et al. Antihyperglycaemic effect of an unusual amino acid (4-hydroxyisoleucine) in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. National Product Research 2010 Feb; 24(3): 258-65