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Pass the Broccoli for Potential Blood Sugar Benefits

Previous research has found eating broccoli may help fight harmful oxidation in people with diabetes. Now, researchers may have discovered another reason to eat broccoli, finding that sulforaphane—a sulfur compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli—may hold the key to better blood sugar control. Published in Science Translational Medicine, the double-blind study included 97 patients with either poorly managed type 2 diabetes (those with a glycated hemoglobin [HbA1c] above 50 mmol/mol) or well-managed type 2 diabetes. Ninety-four of the 97 patients were using metformin, a drug commonly used to treat diabetes. Researchers randomly assigned the patients to receive a placebo or a powdered broccoli sprout extract providing 150 µmol of sulforaphane daily for twelve weeks. At the beginning and end of the twelve weeks, researchers measured participants’ fasting glucose levels and HbA1c, and administered an oral glucose tolerance test. In the patients with poorly managed type 2 diabetes, they found:

  • A significantly greater reduction in fasting glucose levels in participants receiving the broccoli sprout extract compared with those receiving the placebo.
  • In a subgroup of participants with obesity, those given the broccoli sprout extract had greater improvement in HbA1c than those given the placebo; this effect was not seen when all of the patients with poorly managed type 2 diabetes were considered.

Researchers selected sulforaphane for blood sugar regulation using a process that sounds straight out of science fiction: they took genes from tissues affected by type 2 diabetes and identified a genetic “signature”—a pattern of gene expression uniquely associated with diabetes. Then, they searched a database of the genetic effects of over 3,800 compounds to find the one most likely to reverse the clinically relevant aspects of diabetes’ genetic signature, eventually landing on sulforaphane. While this futuristic process has not yet been vetted by clinical research, it is exciting to find that, at least in this case, it did match the clinical trial’s findings.

Source: Science Translational Medicine

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