Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). 5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA), a natural amino acid produced only in the mitochondria, is a precursor of heme. Cytochromes that contain heme play an important role in aerobic energy metabolism. Thus, ALA may help reduce T2DM-associated hyperglycemia. In this study, we investigated the effect of ALA combined with sodium ferrous citrate (SFC) on hyperglycemia in Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats. We found that the gavage administration of ALA combined with SFC (ALA/SFC) for 6 weeks reduced plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels in rats without affecting plasma insulin levels. The glucose-lowering effect depended on the amount of ALA/SFC administered per day. Furthermore, the glucose tolerance was also significantly improved by ALA/SFC administration. Although food intake was slightly reduced in the rats administered ALA/SFC, there was no effect on their body weight. Importantly, ALA/SFC administration induced heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression in white adipose tissue and liver, and the induced expression levels of HO-1 correlated with the glucose-lowering effects of ALA/SFC. Taken together, these results suggest that ALA combined with ferrous ion is effective in reducing hyperglycemia of T2DM without affecting plasma insulin levels. HO-1 induction may be involved in the mechanisms underlying the glucose-lowering effect of ALA/SFC. Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Various heme-containing cytochromes contribute to aerobic energy metabolism and 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), a natural amino acid, is a precursor of heme. We have found that the administration of ALA combined with ferrous ion can effectively reduce hyperglycemia of T2DM.
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