The two main sodium-glucose cotransporters (SGLTs), SGLT1 and SGLT2, provide new therapeutic targets to reduce hyperglycaemia in patients with diabetes. SGLT1 enables the small intestine to absorb glucose and contributes to the reabsorption of glucose filtered by the kidney. SGLT2 is responsible for reabsorption of most of the glucose filtered by the kidney. Inhibitors with varying specificities for these transporters (eg, dapagliflozin, canagliflozin, and empagliflozin) can slow the rate of intestinal glucose absorption and increase the renal elimination of glucose into the urine. Results of randomised clinical trials have shown the blood glucose-lowering efficacy of SGLT inhibitors in type 2 diabetes when administered as monotherapy or in addition to other glucose-lowering therapies including insulin. Increased renal glucose elimination also assists weight loss and could help to reduce blood pressure. Effective SGLT2 inhibition needs adequate glomerular filtration and might increase risk of urinary tract and genital infection, and excessive inhibition of SGLT1 can cause gastro-intestinal symptoms. However, the insulin-independent mechanism of action of SGLT inhibitors seems to offer durable glucose-lowering efficacy with low risk of clinically significant hypoglycaemia at any stage in the natural history of type 2 diabetes. SGLT inhibition might also be considered in conjunction with insulin therapy in type 1 diabetes.
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