Moms around the world now have a new reason to encourage their children to eat their vegetables.
In a groundbreaking report in the Science Translational Report medical journal, researchers found that a sulforaphane-containing extract made from broccoli sprouts may help to improve fasting glucose in people with type 2 diabetes.
In people without diabetes, the body’s pancreas releases insulin which moves glucose (blood sugar) into the body’s cells. This glucose is what your body needs for energy.
However, when you have type 2 diabetes, your cells are resistant to insulin and your body can’t use glucose. By improving fasting glucose levels, this broccoli sprout extract may help to regulate blood sugar levels for people with this form of diabetes.
The implications are massive. This extract can help people reduce their dependence on diabetic drugs like Metformin, a diabetes drug with side effects like fatigue, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
That’s good news for millions of people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 3 people will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. That includes more than 5,000 children every year in the United States.
While other studies have looked at how this vegetable’s compounds may protect against cell oxidation, cancer and DNA damage, this is first study of its kind that specifically measured how sulforaphane in broccoli affected diabetic patients.
Scientists are thrilled with this new research. Lead author Dr. Anders Rosengren, from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, told Medscape Medical News that many studies make claims about the benefits of certain kinds of foods. However, “few have investigated the mechanism behind it,” he notes.
This new study used an extract that was very potent. The equivalent in raw broccoli terms would be approximately 11 pounds, or 5 kilograms, of the vegetable every day. That might be far more broccoli than anyone would want to eat in a day, but other research suggests even smaller amounts of broccoli may be beneficial.
In a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, researchers gave people with type 2 diabetes 10 grams of broccoli a day. After four weeks, these patients had a “significant decrease in serum insulin concentration,” the study reports. In the end, researchers concluded that “broccoli sprouts may improve insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients.
Broccoli isn’t the only vegetable to contain this organic compound. Other cruciferous vegetables are also rich in sulforaphane, including kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy and cabbage. However, broccoli sprouts have the highest amounts of this compound out of all of them.
Now that researchers are understanding just why broccoli sprouts have so many potent health benefits, additional research is being done to learn how we can harness more of this power. Until then, every mother’s wisdom holds true: Eat more vegetables.