What is GLP1, Glucose Like Peptide 1 - Doctablet®

What is GLP-1, Glucagon Like Peptide-1

Doctablet Diabetes, Medications for Diabetes

What is the GLP-1 Hormone and where does it come from?


GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1) is a naturally occurring incretin hormone made in the intestine in response to food.  GLP-1 is one of the two most important incretins—hormones that stimulate insulin secretion in response to a meal.  But GLP-1 does more than simply increase insulin secretion. In fact, it has several important roles in the body. They can be summarized into two main functions.

GLP-1 affects levels of insulin and glucagon to decrease elevated blood sugar levels in two ways:

  • GLP-1 increases the body’s own natural insulin secretion in response to a meal.

  • GLP-1 lowers levels of the hormone glucagon after eating. Glucagon works opposite insulin and raises blood sugar levels, so deceasing glucagon levels helps to lower blood sugar.

GLP-1 increases satiety or makes an individual feel full

  • GLP-1 slows stomach emptying, so food is delivered more slowly to the intestines to continue digestion. If the food is digested more slowly, carbohydrate absorption is prolonged.

  • GLP-1 suppresses appetite in the brain’s hunger center (hypothalamus).

GLP-1 in a person with diabetes
GLP-1 in a person without diabetes
GLP-1 in a person with diabetes
GLP-1 in a person with diabetes

What is a GLP-1 analog/agonist?

GLP-1 analogs or agonists act like naturally occurring GLP-1 by stimulating the same receptor as a person’s own GLP-1 hormone. Rewind the clocks back to the early 1990s, when an endocrinologist discovered a special molecule similar to human GLP-1, which was being studied around the same time. Dr. John Eng found this special protein in the last place you could imagine—the saliva of the Gila monster, a poisonous lizard. This substance, called exendin-4, is 53% similar to human GLP-1 hormone, but is more resistant to being broken down. This makes it more useful as a treatment option. Scientists reproduced exendin-4 in the lab, calling it exenatide. Exenatide was first made available for type 2 diabetes management in 2005 as Byetta®, a twice-daily injection.

GLP-1 levels and type 2 diabetes

Turns out that patients with diabetes are not only likely deficient in their own GLP-1 hormone but, more importantly, the cells that make insulin are resistant to stimulation by GLP-1This means patients might have less of this important hormone, and what they have left clearly does not stimulate insulin as well.

Why not just treat patients with the GLP-1 hormone?

The body’s own naturally occurring GLP-1 has a very short half-life in the bloodstream. Within minutes, hormones like DPPIV break down GLP-1.  Due to this rapid degradation, treating patients with GLP-1 hormone directly has never been shown to be a useful option.

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Last Modified: Sep 17, 2018 @ 5:36 pm
About the Author

Chris Palmeiro D.O. M.Sc.


Dr. Palmeiro is Chairman of Endocrinology at the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, he also serves patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Westchester Institute of Human Development in Valhalla, New York. He has a Masters of Science degree in clinical nutrition and is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine. His interests within the realm of endocrinology include nutrition support, obesity counseling and the progressive management of diabetes.

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