Is broccoli a secret weapon against diabetes

Is broccoli a secret weapon against diabetes? Extract of the vegetable may help patients regulate their blood sugar levels

  • Research has found eating or drinking broccoli in the form of juice could help 
  • Controlling diabetes is a huge expense for the NHS – around 10% of its budget
  • Lifestyle changes – in particular controlling obesity – helps stop the condition

Broccoli could be key to treating diabetes – as a compound in the vegetable helps to lower blood sugar levels.

Research has found that eating or drinking broccoli in the form of juice could help stop type 2 diabetes.

Controlling diabetes is a huge expense for the NHS – around 10 per cent of its total budget – affecting 3.9 million people.

Lifestyle changes – in particular controlling obesity – is an important way to stop the disease.

But in the short term for many, there are problems with existing drug treatments.

Metformin – a blood-sugar lowering drug most commonly used for the condition -cannot be taken by around 15 per cent of sufferers because of its effect on their kidneys.

Professor Anders Rosengren, of Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden, said: ‘Since sulforaphane has very few side effects and can easily be provided as a broccoli shake or drink – for example – it has the potential to become an important compliment to existing treatment options for type 2 diabetes.

‘We will now work to make broccoli sprout extract available to produce as a functional food.’

He said it could also be recommended as a functional food for people with pre-diabetes – meaning their blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes.

Professor Rosengren added: ‘There are claims for lots of foods having health benefits, but here we have shown sulforaphane targets a critical disease process.’

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found the compound had a ‘significant’ benefit for obese patients whose type 2 diabetes was poorly regulated.

He said sulforaphane is highly concentrated in cruciferous vegetables and could be used in a concentrated broccoli extract.

In the 12 week study of 97 obese patients, those given concentrated broccoli sprout found their fasting blood glucose levels fell dramatically compared to controls who received a placebo.

As well as being in broccoli, sulforophane is also present in other ‘cruciferous’ vegetables, including cabbage and Brussel sprouts.


Eating broccoli could lower your risk of having coronary heart disease and several types of cancer, a study suggested last June.

Flavonoids found within the ‘superfood’ could aid the body’s response to diseases, scientists claimed.

Just consuming the vegetable once every three days could improve the immune system by aiding inflammation.

University of Illinois researchers said they are now one-step closer to creating other vegetables such as kale and cabbage with mega-doses of phenolic compounds.

He explained: ‘Sulforaphane induces an antioxidant response. It has previously been studied clinically for cancer and inflammatory diseases but not implicated in type 2 diabetes.

‘When you are fasting the liver continuously produces glucose. When you eat this production is turned off by insulin.

‘What happens in obese individuals is the liver becomes insensitive to this normal regulation and starts producing more glucose than is actually needed.

‘This could lead to elevated fasting blood glucose and manifest diabetes.’

He said the most important therapy for type 2 diabetes is lifestyle changes – such as eating healthily and being physically active., But this also needs to be complemented by drugs.

The condition has become a worldwide epidemic. Type 2 diabetes afflicts more than 300 million people globally.

In the first study of its kind the researchers screened almost 4,000 compounds that might counter the condition – identifying sulforaphane as the most promising.

It damped down glucose production by liver cells growing in culture – and improved symptoms in and shifted liver gene expression in diabetic rats.

The devastating illness can lead to heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and limb amputations.


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