Acarbose improves hypoglycaemia following gastric bypass surgery without increasing glucagon-like peptide 1 levels

Obes Surg. 2012 Apr;22(4):582-6. doi: 10.1007/s11695-011-0581-0.


Background: Postprandial hypoglycaemia is a severe complication of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGBP). Acarbose, an α-glucosidase inhibitor (AGI), is employed in its treatment. Several studies have shown that AGIs increase the postprandial levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). However, an excessive level of GLP-1 is one of the factors involved in the physiopathology of this condition. We analysed the effect of acarbose oral administration in eight RYBGP patients with clinically significant hypoglycaemia or dumping syndrome.

Methods: Glucose, insulin and GLP-1 plasma levels in fasting and after ingestion of a standard meal (Ensure Plus®; 13 g protein, 50 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat) were measured. The test was repeated the following week with the oral administration of 100 mg of acarbose 15 min prior to the meal.

Results: Five patients developed asymptomatic hypoglycaemia during the test (glucose level <50 mg/dl) with inappropriately high insulin levels and exaggerated GLP-1 response. Acarbose ingestion avoided hypoglycaemia in all of the patients and increased the lowest plasma glucose level (46.4 ± 4.8 vs. 59.0 ± 2.6 mg/dl, p < 0.01). Acarbose ingestion decreased the area under the curve for serum insulin and GLP-1 levels at 15 min after the meal.

Conclusions: Acarbose avoided postprandial hypoglycaemia following RYGBP by decreasing the hyperinsulinemic response. This was associated with a decrease in early GLP-1 secretion, in contrast to that observed in non-surgical subjects. This finding could be explained by the reduction of glucose load in the jejunum produced by the α-glucosidase inhibition, which is the main stimulus for GLP-1 secretion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acarbose / administration & dosage
  • Acarbose / therapeutic use*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Dumping Syndrome / blood
  • Dumping Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Dumping Syndrome / etiology
  • Dumping Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Gastric Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / blood*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Obesity, Morbid / blood
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Postprandial Period
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Acarbose