Scientists used both computational and experimental research to zero in on a network of 50 genes that cause symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. They also located a compound called sulforaphane — which is found naturally in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages — that could turn down the expression of those genes, according to the findings, published today (June 14) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
In the study, the scientists gave sulforaphane to obese patients, in the form of a concentrated broccoli sprout extract. They found that it improved the patients’ systems’ ability to control their glucose levels and reduced their glucose production — two symptoms of diabetes that can lead to other health problems, including coronary artery disease, nerve damage and blindness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s very exciting and opens up new possibilities for the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” Anders Rosengren, an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, told Live Science. [Science You Can Eat: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Food]
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, affects more than 300 million people globally. For those with the disease who are obese, the excess fat in the liver makes the body less sensitive to the hormone insulin, which can make it difficult for the organ to help regulate blood sugar levels. Normally, insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, stimulates the liver to pull glucose out of the bloodstream and store it for later use.
People with type 2 diabetes are usually advised to change their diet to help control their blood sugar levels. “Lifestyle changes are at the core of type 2 diabetes treatment but often need to be complemented with drugs,” Rosengren said.
Currently the main treatment option is the drug metformin. But not every person…