The glucose-lowering alpha-glucosidase inhibitor acarbose, is believed to act by delaying digestion and absorption of dietary carbohydrates. It has been shown that acarbose increases circulating glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Using the GLP-1 receptor antagonist exendin(9-39)NH2, we investigated the effect of acarbose-induced GLP-1 secretion on postprandial glucose metabolism in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized, cross-over study, 15 participants with metformin-treated T2D (age 57-85 years, BMI 23.6-34.6 kg/m2, HbA1c 40-74 mmol/mol (5.8-8.9%)) were subjected to two 14-day treatment periods with acarbose (uptitrated to 100 mg TID) and placebo treatment, respectively, with an interposed 6-week wash-out period. At the end of each treatment period, we performed two randomized 4-hour mixed meal tests (including acetaminophen for evaluation of gastric emptying) with concomitant infusion of exendin(9-39)NH2 (1000 pmol/kg/min for 20 min followed by 450 pmol/kg/min for 240 min) and saline, respectively. Acarbose treatment lowered fasting plasma glucose (P<0.0001) and postprandial plasma glucose excursions (P<0.0001) compared to placebo. Furthermore, acarbose almost doubled the postprandial GLP-1 response (P=0.0032), reduced postprandial glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (P<0.0001) and delayed gastric emptying (P=0.0395). No absolute difference was seen in exendin(9-39)NH2-induced postprandial plasma glucose changes between treatment periods (P=0.54), but relative to postprandial glucose tolerance during exendin(9-39)NH2 infusions, the change (i.e., contribution of GLP-1) was significantly higher during acarbose (56±26%) compared to placebo treatment (37±15%) (P=0.042). We conclude that acarbose treatment robustly stimulates GLP-1 secretion in patients with T2D and that acarbose-induced GLP-1 secretion contributes to the glucose-lowering effect of acarbose.


N.B. Dalsgaard: None. L.S. Gasbjerg: Stock/Shareholder; Self; Antag Therapeutics. L.S. Hansen: None. N.L. Hansen: None. S. Stensen: None. B. Hartmann: None. J.J. Holst: Advisory Panel; Self; Novo Nordisk A/S. T. Vilsbøll: None. F.K. Knop: Advisory Panel; Self; AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Mundipharma, Novo Nordisk A/S, Sanofi. Consultant; Self; Amgen Inc., Carmot Therapeutics, Novo Nordisk A/S. Research Support; Self; AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk A/S. Speaker's Bureau; Self; AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Mundipharma, Norgine, Novo Nordisk A/S.

Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. More information is available at