Broccoli Extract Demonstrates Potential for Diabetes Blood Glucose Control

Alternative treatment options to control blood glucose level in patients with type 2 diabetes show promise.

A majority of patients with type 2 diabetes manage blood glucose levels through diet, exercise, and prescription drugs. However, investigators from a new study published by Science Translational Medicine suggest that an extract derived from broccoli sprouts may help patients better manage blood sugar levels.

These results could offer a simple alternative treatment option for more than 300 million patients with type 2 diabetes around the world. Approximately 15% of these individuals cannot receive first-line therapy with metformin due to the risk of kidney damage or other side effects.

“There are strong indications that this can become a valuable supplement to existing medication,” said researcher Anders Rosengren, MD, PhD.

The authors set out to identify compounds that counter changes in gene expression observed among patients with diabetes, specifically having to due with increased glucose production.

The investigators developed a signature for type 2 diabetes based on 50 genes and screened 3852 compounds to discover an effective way to reverse the condition, according to the study.

The authors identified the compound sulforaphane as a potential treatment. Sulforaphane is naturally occurring in cruciferous vegetables and has been previously examined in the treatment of cancer and inflammatory disease, according to the authors.

They discovered that sulforaphane was able to reduce glucose production in liver cells in an in vitro cell model. The compound was also observed to normalize liver gene expression in mice models of diabetes. Within 4 weeks, the blood sugar of mice receiving sulforaphane dropped by 23%, while a 24% reduction was observed with metformin.

“We tested removing sulforaphane from the extract and the effect disappeared,” Dr Rosengren said. “We also looked at the genes from the liver of the animals and saw that the 50 key genes had been changed in the right direction.”

Since the compound has been confirmed to not be harmful, the investigators tested sulforaphane in 97 patients with type 2 diabetes.

All patients received treatment with metformin, but patients who took sulforaphane for 12 weeks were observed to have significantly lower blood sugar levels compared with placebo, according to the study.

Additionally, the authors found that patients with obesity who had unregulated blood glucose levels treated with sulforaphane had significantly reduced levels compared with the control group.

“Sulforaphane targets a central mechanism in type 2 diabetes and has a mild side-effect profile,” Dr Rosengren concluded. “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.”