Sulforaphane in broccoli found to help diabetics control blood sugar

People with Type 2 diabetes may have a new option in a chemical called sulforaphane to help manage their blood sugar.

In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers randomised 97 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes to take a concentrated broccoli sprout extract containing sulforaphane once a day for 12 weeks or a placebo with the same regimen.

Ninety four of the 97 participants were taking metformin, a standard treatment for controlling blood sugar. Patients who took ultraconcentrated sulforaphane produced less glucose and the compound also improved fasting glucose and glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c, an indicator of blood sugar levels in obese patients with dysregulated Type 2 diabetes. The treatment also showed a protective effect against some complications linked to diabetes, such as neuropathy and kidney failure.

In the research led by Annika Axelsson, of Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden, the scientists created a genetic profile for Type 2 diabetes based on 50 key genes, alterations of which were associated with the disease. They then screened 3,852 different compounds for their ability to reverse that genetic signature. Sulforafane was found to fit the bill.

The concentration of sulforaphane given was around 100 times the amount found in broccoli. ''It was the same as eating around five kilograms of broccoli daily,'' says Anders Rosengren of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, New Scientist reported.

''We're very excited about the effects we've seen and are eager to bring the extract to patients,'' says Rosengren. ''We saw a reduction of glucose of about 10 per cent, which is sufficient to reduce complications in the eyes, kidneys and blood,'' he said.