Amylin: The Forgotten Hormone

Diabetes

Most everyone knows that when someone has type 1 diabetes, their pancreas lacks the ability to produce the hormone insulin (or their pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, as in the case of type 2 diabetes). What isn’t so well known is that the pancreas also produces another helpful hormone called amylin that people with diabetes also lack! A crucial hormone that was once unknown and not prescribed for diabetes management is now recommended for most people with diabetes to take via injection. So, what is it? This article will describe what Amylin is and why it is important.

What Is Amylin?

Amylin is an amino acid polypeptide hormone that is released by the pancreas at the same time as insulin, although in much smaller quantities (at a ratio of approximately 1:100).

Amylin is a crucial hormone that acts as a sidekick to insulin in people without diabetes. It is produced by the pancreas and helps inhibit glucagon secretion, preventing the rapid spike in blood sugar, and also helps slow gastrointestinal emptying and curbs appetite.

The hormone assists insulin in controlling postprandial blood sugars. Unfortunately, people with diabetes not only lose the ability to produce insulin, but they also lose the ability to produce amylin as well.

Why Is Amylin Important?

People without diabetes don’t have to worry as much about controlling their appetite, managing hormonal levels, or juggling their blood sugars because they naturally produce both insulin and amylin. Amylin inhibits the release of glucagon when eating (preventing blood sugar spikes), slows the digestion of food from the stomach, and curbs appetite.

People with diabetes can sometimes struggle with these issues due to lacking both hormones, but for patients in the United States, amylin analogs are available (via a daily or weekly injection before meals) to mimic the functions of this important hormone.

The Benefits of Amylin Analogs

Amylin analogs, like Symlin (approved in 2005 for use in the United States), have been shown to cause weight loss, lower HbA1c levels, and reduce the average amount of insulin needed to manage blood sugars in people with diabetes. Amylin analogs can be used to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in conjunction with insulin therapy. Although not approved for use in children, several studies have shown that amylin analogs are safe and effective when taken by adolescents. Doctors may prescribe amylin analogs off-label to children under the age of 18.

People with diabetes can take injectable amylin analogs before meals to help with postprandial blood sugar levels and help manage both appetite and weight gain.

Potential Side Effects

The most common side effects of amylin are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Hypoglycemia (especially if used in conjunction with insulin)

These side effects typically occur at the beginning of treatment and decline as the body adjusts to the medication.

Research shows that the regular use of amylin analogs in people with diabetes lowers HbA1c levels, fasting blood glucose levels, triglycerides and cholesterol levels, increases time-in-range (TiR), and helps people with diabetes manage their appetite and lose weight. It also reduces blood sugar variability, helping to prevent long-term complications. Talk with your doctor about whether incorporating amylin analogs into your diabetes management therapy is a good choice for you

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