Someone shared an article with me recently that casts some doubt on the effectiveness of the class of medicine called GLP-1 agonists. I've read other articles about this lately as well and I figured that since I haven't talked about this medication on this site yet it was time to do a post on it.
There is a hormone that is secreted by the gut called glucagon like peptide 1, or GLP-1 for short. GLP-1 is an important hormone for proper glucose regulation, and it does serve to lower blood sugar. It is released after meals and helps increase insulin levels a bit, and also decreases glucagon production.
Insulin of course is the hormone that reduces blood sugar, and glucagon is the hormone that increases it. We have glucagon to thank for remaining alive when we don't eat, because it keeps our blood sugar from going too low, and if blood sugar goes too low we go into a coma and die.
Too much of a good thing isn't good though, and this actually is something that conventional diabetes treatment ignores by the way, but in the case of glucagon, diabetics have way too much, both type 1 and type 2 actually, although we're just talking about type 2 here. So what happens is that our blood sugar is upregulated way too much all the time by glucagon, which is even the case after eating, and in type 2 diabetics, it's actually at it's highest level after meals, when this is supposed to shut down because there's no need for it.
So in other words, glucagon is supposed to kick in when we don't eat and our blood sugar starts to drop, but in diabetics it doesn't know when to stop and our pancreases just keep churning it out in inappropriate amounts. This is actually the real reason why we suffer from hyperglycemia, and if we could fix this problem, we'd actually cure type 2 diabetes.
So you have this other hormone, GLP-1, which keeps it in check somewhat, and diabetics are often low in GLP-1. So someone came up with the bright idea to have us inject it to lower our blood sugar, and sure enough it works to do that.
So far this sounds like a happy story and you might be thinking this is a great idea. There's one big problem with this strategy though and it has to do with the way hormones work. With hormones, you need them in a healthy range, and too much or too little are both bad. This is the case with all hormones, and this is why we generally closely monitor levels when we administer hormone therapy.
That's not the case when it comes to treating blood sugar though. Anything goes here, and it doesn't matter how high we raise hormones, toxic levels are perfectly fine, so long as something reduces blood sugar in the short run. This is of course a foolish and dangerous approach.
So we definitely see that with the way we use insulin, no one cares where your levels are at now, your insulin levels could be way too high even before the therapy, and that's the case with most of us, here's some more, let's elevate your already toxic levels of insulin even further, because all we care about is short term blood sugar readings. Later, when things to to hell from this, well let's just increase the dosage.
So this is the same thinking that goes on when we use GLP-1 agonists such as Byetta and Victoza. Now we do tend to be low in this, this isn't natural GLP-1 by the way it's a synthetic version, and the body isn't fooled, and the fact that it's not real GLP-1 causes all sorts of problems.
Most of the problems with this drug are actually due to the excessive amounts that are being used. Now if we had half a brain, if we are low in GLP-1, we'd first measure our levels, and if we are low in it, an argument could be made to use the drug to bring our levels up to normal, and at that point if the benefits were worth the risks, then we may have a therapy that has benefits.
The truth is, they wouldn't be, as this would only have a minor effect on blood sugar at best, and because this isn't biological GLP-1 it's very likely that the risks involved here would greatly outweigh the benefits.
We're left to speculate here since no one has tried this, what we do instead is jack up GLP-1 levels well beyond healthy ones, well beyond what our pancreas is designed to handle, and this causes damage to the pancreas. They've done autopsies on people who have used this and the drug caused pancreatic tumors in every one of them. Now they weren't malignant but being a diabetic and having tumors in your pancreas is not a good thing. Even people on the drug for a short time had this.
They also found that the drug caused the pancreas to grow new beta cells, which sounds exciting other than the fact that these new cells are mutant cells, both beta and alpha, the same cell, and alpha cells secrete glucagon of course, the thing you're looking to reduce. Having mutant cells in the body certainly isn't a good thing either.
What happens in practice is that the drug dramatically increases GLP-1 in the body, but the pancreas fights back, and while this does lower blood sugar in the short term, we now know from studies that glucagon levels rise over time to the point where the drug is no longer effective. So it turns down glucagon for a while but the pancreas fights back and the pancreas wins.
In fact we're learning that while GLP-1 agonists are supposed to lower glucagon, over time they actually raise it, which is the opposite of what we want.
When we look at anti diabetics and see the high failure rates that they have, and they fail in about 2 years on average, if we were honest with people, we'd tell them, well we're going to give you something that will work for a while and then stop working after a bit, and they may wonder what the point of it is.
Reducing A1C an average of 1% over a year or two isn't a very meaningful benefit by the way, but if that's all there were too it, then it wouldn't actually be a big deal, as this is at least somewhat of a benefit, but the problem is that there is a down side here, the risks involved, the damage that is caused, the worsening of the diabetes that is caused, and GLP-1 agonists have it all here. People die from them, and we are abusing them by administering them without a care in the world about elevating hormones to unhealthy levels, and in fact this is exactly what happens, and there are consequences.
It's all about making more money off us really and they do a fine job of that, and when the GLP-1 agonists stop working, well they have plenty of other dangerous things to give you.