Grape compound may aid type I diabetics, ARS

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Insulin, Diabetes

New research from the Agricultural Research Service has indicated,
for the first time, a link between some compound in grapes and
slower progression of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes affects one in 400-600 children and adolescents in the US, and sufferers have to carefully manage their blood sugar levels through their diet and use of insulin. Although consuming large quantities of grapes would be an unfeasible proposition for them because of the effect on blood sugar, the initial findings of ARS molecular biologist Susan Zunino, in collaboration with colleagues David Storms and Charles Stephensen, will be of interest to health and functional food makers as well as diabetes specialists. Zunino and her team two fed freeze-dried grape powder, from the kind normally sold in supermarkets, to mice with type I diabetes. The powder made up one percent of the mice's chow, and was equivalent to six human servings a day. A second group of mice did not receive the grape powder. The scientists have reported in the March 2008 issue of the Agriculture Research magazine (published by the ARS) that the progression of type 1 diabetes was prevented in the group that ate the grape, and they lived for longer. Although this is said to be the first time a link between grapes and diabetes management has been observed, the finding will be of interest to functional food companies and diabetes experts. Nonetheless, much work remains to be done before we can say for sure that grapes can help - not least because this work has been done on mice, not humans. Crucially, is not yet know which compound or compounds in the grape could be responsible for the observed effect. It is important to identify and find a way to extract the compound(s) so it can be extracted and administered in a safe way to diabetes type I sufferers. One theory on the mechanism is that the phytochemicals prevented entry of immune cells into the pancreas, since the grape-fed mice were seen to have fewer immune cells in that organ than the non-grape group. When they enter the pancreas, immune cells attack insulin-producing beta cells, which are needed to regulate sugar in the blood. When there is a dearth of beta cells, the result is type 1 diabetes. No indication has been given of whether the grape powder could have any effect on management or prevention of type II diabetes, or on its precursor metabolic syndrome, both of which are interesting areas for functional foods innovators. Source: Agricultural Research March 2008 "How plants protect us​: Unmasking the secret power of phytochemicals"​ Authors: Susan Zunino, David Storms, Charles Stephensen

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