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Keywords:

  • dicarboxylic acids;
  • dodecanedioic acid;
  • sebacic acid;
  • type 2 diabetes

Even-number, medium-chain dicarboxylic acids (DAs), naturally occurring in higher plants, are a promising alternative energy substrate. Unlike the homologous fatty acids, DAs are soluble in water as salts. They are β-oxidized, providing acetyl-CoA and succinyl-CoA, the latter being an intermediate of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Sebacic acid and dodecanedioic acid, DAs with 10 and 12 carbon atoms respectively, provide 6.6 and 7.2 kcal g−1 each; therefore, their energy density is intermediate between glucose and fatty acids. Dicarboxylic acids have been proved to be safe in both experimental animals and humans, and their use has recently been proposed in diabetes. Studies in animals and humans with type 2 diabetes showed that oral administration of sebacic acid improved glycaemic control, probably by enhancing insulin sensitivity, and reduced hepatic gluconeogenesis and glucose output. Moreover, dodecanedioic acid intake reduced muscle fatigue during exercise in subjects with type 2 diabetes, suggesting an improvement of energy utilization and ‘metabolic flexibility’. In this article, we review the natural sources of DAs, their fate in animals and humans and their effect in improving glucose metabolism in type 2 diabetes.