test-What is GLP-1?
Blood Sugar Support
What is GLP-1?
Medically reviewed by Dr. Christopher Oseh • July 2, 2024

What is GLP-1?

Quite a few folks are talking about GLP-1, and with good reason! But you may be wondering what GLP-1 is and what GLP-1 stands for. You wouldn’t be alone! GLP-1 stands for glucagon-like peptide 1 and is an amino acid peptide hormone. Glucagon-like peptide 1 is produced in the gut as a result of eating food and it appears that its primary roles are to inhibit the production of glucagon and to promote the production of insulin. GLP-1 has also been linked to healthy weight management as it is believed to help regulate food intake (appetite).1

How does GLP-1 work?

Research is emerging on the function of GLP-1 in the body, which is good news as many are asking if GLP-1 can help with issues like obesity or even diabetes. GLP-1 is produced by specific cells located in the intestines as a result of food intake. This hormone is believed to be transmitted by sensory neuron cells in the gut and is rapidly metabolized there by an enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase. GLP-1 Is considered to be an incretin hormone, which means that it works to promote the production of insulin—an important benefit for those who wish to support a healthy blood glucose response. Additionally, GLP-1 appears to inhibit an over-secretion of glucagon (a hormone which raises glucose), meaning that it plays a further role in maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.1

Finally, GLP-1 has been linked to inhibiting gastrointestinal motility. Motility is the process by which food is moved through the body, beginning with the mouth and continuing through the intestines and eventual excretion.2 By affecting this process, GLP-1 is considered to be an enterogastrone—a hormone secreted when sugars or fatty foods enter the small intestine.3 That would imply that GLP-1 works to moderate the movement of foods in order to maximize the absorption of nutrients, a process which also contributes to a reduction in appetite and a benefit to healthy weight management.1

Some may be wondering if GLP-1 is a medication, but while there may be therapeutic uses for this hormone, glucagon-like peptide 1 is something that is produced naturally in the body and so does not meet that definition. There is, however, a class of medications known as GLP-1 agonists, which a medical professional may consider in the treatment of diagnosable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Let’s look closer at what GLP-1 agonists are.

What are GLP-1 agonists?

The term “GLP-1 agonist” refers to a type of medication that medical professionals may prescribe to patients needing treatment for high blood glucose levels or who may need assistance with managing their weight.4 This type of medication was approved by the FDA in 2005 and is generally an injectable delivered in the fatty tissue present just under the skin.4 GLP-1 agonists are prescribed by a doctor who may decide that they are appropriate for an individual based on their specific needs.

Benefits of GLP-1 agonists

GLP-1 agonists work in the body to deliver benefits in a number of ways. This type of medication behaves similarly to natural GLP-1 hormones in the body by promoting the production of insulin by the pancreas, supporting a sense of satiety while also slowing the movement of food along the digestive tract and by inhibiting the secretion of glucagon as food is digested.4

If a medical professional prescribes a GLP-1 agonist to a patient, the benefits may include:4

  • Delaying the progression of certain diabetes-related complications
  • Reducing the risks of developing kidney or heart disease
  • Improving certain liver health issues
  • Improving cardiovascular health, such as helping to maintain normal blood pressure readings

Supplements and GLP-1

Researchers are continuing to investigate the relation between GLP-1 and certain benefits to blood glucose control and healthy weight management. It may be possible to promote the body’s natural production of GLP-1 hormone by taking certain GLP-1-supporting supplements. A list of such supplements would include:5

  • Berberine—an herbal supplement used for cardiovascular and gut health in addition to weight management. Read more in The Health Benefits of Berberine.
  • Calcium—some research indicates that calcium may play a role in the body’s natural secretion of GLP-1 hormone in the gut.6
  • Cinnamon—not just a delicious spice, this botanical also supports blood glucose response and heart health. Find out more in this A-Z Guide to Herbal Supplements.
  • Curcumin—this compound is found naturally in the roots (or rhizomes) of the turmeric plant and is often associated with cognitive and joint health, among other benefits. Read all about curcumin and turmeric in Turmeric vs Curcumin: What is the Difference?
  • Psyllium—generally taken in supplement form as psyllium husk fiber, this nutrient acts as a prebiotic to support gut health while also delivering benefits to the cardiovascular system, such as promoting healthy blood glucose levels. Get the full scoop in Top Reasons to Add Psyllium Husk Fiber to Your Diet.
  • Resveratrol—derived from a traditional Chinese herb, resveratrol delivers potent antioxidant defense in addition to supporting cardiovascular health. Learn more from a registered dietitian in Resveratrol Benefits.

Foods linked to GLP-1

Scientists are continuing to examine the impact of various nutrients on the body’s natural secretion of GLP-1. In human studies, whey protein has been shown to stimulate the production of glucagon-like peptide 1.6 In cell models, the following foods held a significant influence on the production of GLP-1:6

  • Egg whites
  • Wheat
  • Codfish
  • Casein (milk protein)

To learn more about supplementing with protein powder (whey, casein or otherwise), read Sports Nutrition That Fuels Your Fitness.

Scientific understanding of GLP-1 and the roles it plays in promoting a healthy blood glucose response and weight management is on-going. As we learn more there are several ways that we can do our part to make sure our body has the tools it needs to operate optimally. These include supplementing with select herbs or minerals to promote the production of GLP-1 in addition to incorporating certain food items into our diets for a natural source of support.

You be well, now.

Swanson

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Dr. Christopher Oseh

About Dr. Christopher Oseh

Christopher Oseh, MD, is a trained primary care physician leveraging almost a decade of clinical experience managing and counseling patients toward better health through positive lifestyle changes. He has a strong track record of treating and co-managing individuals with chronic illnesses.

Sources

 

  1. The Physiology of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1. Physiological Reviews. Read source
  2. Gastrointestinal Motility. UCSan Diego Health. Read source
  3. Enterogastrone. Britannica. Read source.
  4. GLP-1 Agonists. Cleveland Clinic. Read source
  5. Boosting GLP-1 By Natural Products. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Read source
  6. Food Factors Having Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Releasing Activity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Read source
Chat