GAD, GABA, and the Pancreas







When we are looking to find out whether one has autoimmune diabetes or not, in addition to testing one's insulin levels, either by testing fasting serum insulin or by using a c peptide test, which also measures insulin secretion, we also often run a GAD antibody test, to see if there are high enough levels of this antibody to indicate either type 1 or type 1.5, which is a combination of type 1 and 2 with the reduced insulin secretion of type 1 along with characteristics of type 2 such as insulin resistance.

Some think that any level of these antibodies indicate autoimmune diabetes, but GAD tends to often have some level of antibodies in some people without autoimmune diabetes as well, and you're looking for it to be over a certain number, such as over 1.5, which should be indicated on the lab report as the normal reference range.

That part is interesting though as if we do have even a sub clinical level of antibodies to GAD, this may indicate some problems with this, although to a lesser degree than the more full blown autoimmune attack we see in autoimmune diabetes.

A great many people think that in autoimmune diabetes, antibodies attack the beta cells of the pancreas and kill them off.  This isn't the case at all though, they actually attack GAD although this does lead to beta cell death if GAD is under enough attack.

So what the heck is GAD anyway?  Well it's full name is glutamic acid decarboxylase.  So from the -ase part we can see this is an enzyme.  What this enzyme does is convert glutamate to GABA, which is a neurotransmitter.

So what does reducing the conversion of a neurotransmitter have to do with diabetes and in particular, the beta cells?  Well GABA plays a pretty big role in diabetes and in autoimmune diabetes as well.

So the first thing that should come to mind here is that if we have autoimmunity to GAD, then we convert less glutamate to GABA, so maybe low GABA has something to do with this.  So there's actually been some studies done showing that GABA supplementation does help, in fact it was even shown to reverse type 1 diabetes in rats.

Another thing that happens with GAD under attack is that the body can have excessively high levels of glutamate, which is a toxin at high levels.  Our diets are full of this stuff as well, through various forms of MSG, and there's actually a pretty long list of different things that this substance as called, like textured protein for instance, to name just one.

Glutamate is also an amino acid, so it's something we have plenty of already, and when we add additives containing free glutamic acid (another term for MSG), and when we have GAD antibodies on top of that, then levels of glutamate can get pretty high indeed.

We're not even sure of all the ramifications that excessively high glutamate has on diabetes but we do know that this is not a desirable thing at all, and is already blamed for a number of dysfunctions, including depression, especially depression when one has autoimmune diabetes.  It can also cause a taurine deficiency, and that should be taken into account.

One of the things glutamate does is to elevate insulin levels, among those who do not have autoimmune diabetes, like those with type 2 for instance, or even those who don't but either have too much insulin resistance or are headed down that road, which is a very high percentage of the population actually.

Guess that opposes glutamate and gets levels under control?  Well GAD converts it to GABA, but GABA itself opposes glutamate and is basically the opposite of it.  GABA has even  been shown to normalize insulin secretion, which makes it perfect for those of us who secrete too much, which includes obese people as well as almost all type 2 diabetics and prediabetics, although if we're not secreting enough it can increase it, which in this case is what we want.

So given that GAD antibodies may be present to some degree in type 2's as well, not to the extent that your beta cells will be killed off enough to be a type 1 or type 1.5, but keep in mind that we can have subclinical variations of anything and this might be the case with GAD, in fact it's almost certainly the case actually, as if you have antibodies than some GAD is being destroyed, and some glutamate doesn't convert to GABA, and we'd expect you to be therefore lower in GABA.

GABA is for sale as a supplement though, and it's something that I take personally, and I think that it may indeed have some benefit for at least some of us, and may be worth considering, especially if you have some level of GAD antibodies, and for that matter, even if you don't.


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11 Comments on “GAD, GABA, and the Pancreas

  1. Hey great blog! Does running a blog similar to this require a large amount of
    work? I’ve virtually no knowledge of computer programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near
    future. Anyway, should you have any recommendations or techniques for
    new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject however I
    simply had to ask. Kudos!

    1. Running the blog is easy, I use wordpress like many blogs do and it does the work for you, you of course need to provide the content 🙂

  2. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it
    better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    1. I suppose I could put more images in there but to be honest I’m not out for fluff here, I do use one for each and I think that’s enough. As far as spacing it out, well I don’t make them too long and I don’t think they are. I appreciate the input though 🙂

    1. Thanks, the entire site is based upon my own research and insights, there is lots to talk about here, and there’s lots of good info out there but people aren’t going to want to spend endless amounts of time reading and thinking about this, I have diabetes though and that’s what got me interested and I’m just looking to share my thoughts as things evolve 🙂

  3. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

  4. Hi Ken,
    Great article, thanks
    Do you know whether there is a test for decreased GAD production in itself, perhaps due to a damaged pancreas, rather than because of GAD antibodies?
    Or is there any other procedures to test for this?
    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Beth:

      That’s an interesting question. I’ve never heard of anyone measuring this and the assumption is that without the autoimmune attack then there isn’t anything to worry about really. It’s important to measure insulin levels though if you want to see where the rubber meets the road as far as your beta cell function goes, and I don’t think we need to go beyond this, as far as the pancreas is concerned anyway. GABA levels though overall are going to matter generally though, and that can be tested for in a neurotransmitter profile, along with the other neurotransmitters. The worry with GAD autoimmunity is that GABA will become too deficient so this test would tell us if we were, although good luck getting it prescribed for diabetic reasons, they won’t have a clue as to why really. Some people supplement with GABA and that way you can address any deficiencies that may be present. GABA may also stimulate beta cells in cases where they are underproducing due to autoimmune diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, that’s pretty much the only time they do. With type 2’s, the goal is to look to normalize insulin levels which means you need to bring them down in almost all cases, but it’s good to know what needs to be done and this involves insulin testing 🙂

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