Broccoli bursting with diabetes fighting compound, say scientists

Brocoli

Anders Rosengren
Anders Rosengren from the University of Gothenburg.

Swedish researchers have identified an antioxidant found in broccoli as a new anti-diabetic substance that can lower blood sugar levels in patients.

And now scientists at the University of Gothenburg are collaborating with Swedish agricultural cooperative, Lantmännen, to produce broccoli, which is packed with sulforaphane, to be developed for functional food over the next two years.

The publication in the journal Science Translational Medicine builds on previous research at Sahlgrenska Academy and Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Gothenburg, and the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University.

The purpose was to examine new medications against type-2 diabetes by addressing the important disease mechanism of the liver’s elevated glucose production.

Metformin is a the first-line medication for the treatment of type-2 diabetes, particularly in people who are overweight and obese. However, it can cause gastric side effects and cannot be taken when kidney function is severely reduced.

In a bid to find alternative treatments, the research team examined broccoli after studies with mice showed sulforaphane reduced blood sugar levels by 23% over a four week period.

The three-month placebo-controlled study involved almost 100 type 2 diabetes patients being given a powered broccoli sprout extract containing around 100 times the amount of sulforaphane found in the vegetable.

According to the researchers, sulforaphane had the greatest impact on the obese participants.

Anders Rosengren, Docent in Metabolic Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, says there are strong indications that sulforaphane can become a “valuable supplement to existing medication.”

He says a  daily dose of sulforaphane is extracted from four to five kilograms of broccoli. The plan is to have a functional food preparation out within two years and development has already started with Lantmännen.

“Sulforaphane targets a central mechanism in type 2 diabetes and has a mild side-effect profile. As functional food, it can reach the patients faster than a medication, and it is also an interesting concept from a diabetes perspective where diet is central,” adds Rosengren.

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