JUN 15, 2017 3:20 PM PDT

Broccoli Extract Could Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

People with type 2 diabetes may do well not to turn down some broccoli, suggest a new study. Indeed, broccoli is rich in an antioxidant, known as sulforaphane, which researchers found may slow or even treat type 2 diabetes in obese adults.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic disorders that is characterized by the body’s inability to regulate blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insufficient quantities of the natural hormone insulin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. This figure is triple the amount reported in 1980. And of this number, about a quarter of diabetics don’t know about their condition.

Currently, in addition to lifestyle changes, medications can help patients manage their blood glucose. However, one of the most widely prescribed diabetes drug, metformin, can’t be given to all patients with type 2 diabetes due to side effects. Thus, researchers at the Lund University Diabetes Center in Sweden set out to find alternative compounds.

The team began by first screening over 3,800 compounds for potential gene expression changes associated with type 2 diabetes. They landed on the sulforaphane compound, which seemed to turn down the expression of genes that are associated with type 2 diabetes symptoms. Sulforaphane is abundant in cruciferous vegetables – like broccoli, cabbage, and garden cress.

The result was confirmed in liver cells, where exposure to sulforaphane reduced glucose production. Similarly, in mice with type 2 diabetes, the compound appeared to shift the animals’ liver from a “diseased state” to a healthier one, the authors wrote.

Spurred with the positive lab results, the team took their compound to a small trial with 97 diabetic patients. In addition to their usual medication, patients were randomized to either receive sulforaphane powder, or placebo. At the 12-week trial, the group that received the sulforaphane powder seemed to have lower levels of fasting blood glucose, as compared to the placebo group.

But the study has several caveats. First, the sulforaphane powder seemed to be effective for the diabetic patients who were also obese and had poor blood sugar control. So, even if the extract does help lower blood glucose, it doesn’t seem to be a universal metformin alternative. Second, the sulforaphane powder that patients received in the trial is highly concentrated and purified. Thus, the glucose-lowering effects may be diminished by merely eating broccoli or consuming over-the-counter sulforaphane supplements.

"At this point we cannot recommend that anyone take the currently available extracts on the market to treat type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Anders Rosengren, the study’s lead author. The team next plans to investigate sulforaphane’s potential in prediabetes patients.

So while the team can’t say for sure that sulforaphane will help treat diabetes naturally, there may still be cause to eating more broccoli. As an antioxidant, sulforaphane inhibits the oxidation of molecules, thereby buffering cells against damages brought on by carcinogens. Thus, the compound antioxidant has already been associated with anticancer benefits.

Additional sources: Live Science, MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2019
Neuroscience
SEP 20, 2019
The brain of a psychopath: how people with psychopathic traits control their 'dark urges'
Psychopaths are usually portrayed negatively: they display antisocial behavior, such as shallow emotions, callousness, impulsivity, and lack of empathy. Ps...
NOV 06, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 06, 2019
Opioid Addiction Can be Controlled Using an In-Brain Chip Technology: First U.S. Clinical Trial
Opioid addiction is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems. Opioids are a class of drugs that act...
NOV 10, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 10, 2019
A New Strain of HIV is Identified
For the first time since 2000, researchers have identified a new subtype of HIV....
NOV 14, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 14, 2019
Examining the Squirrelly Ones: Wearable MEG Scanner that Suits Pediatric Patients
In a recent study, a joint research team at the University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, and University College London successfully tested a ne...
DEC 11, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 11, 2019
New 3-in-1 organ in a dish set to elevate research and diagnostics
In trying to understand complex phenomena in the human body, researchers usually have to turn to oversimplified biological models. Amongst the easiest to u...
JAN 19, 2020
Immunology
JAN 19, 2020
Overactive Immune Gene May Cause Schizophrenia
A windy road links excessive activity of the “C4” gene to the development of schizophrenia. Researchers begin to study C4 activity as part of n...
Loading Comments...