It’s beautiful, smells wonderful, and now, according to a new study in Life Metabolism, it can also heal type 2 diabetes. A few years ago, a team of scientists at the University of Otago made a significant breakthrough in diabetes research. They found that a chemical called butein could regulate glucose levels in our brains.
That finding was based on an 1855 discovery that our brains can control our bodies’ glucose. The big problem, however, was that the best source of butein was a toxic plant called Toxicodendron vernicifluum, also called the Chinese lacquer tree. Scientists obviously cannot give diabetes patients a toxic source of this chemical, so the research died down for a while.
However, there is another good source of butein: dahlia flowers, which the researchers decided to investigate to see whether it had the same anti-diabetic effects as the toxic version. While toxic to dogs and cats, dahlia flowers are safe for human consumption.
The scientists performed their first study on mice by giving them the dahlia extract. These mice were eating a lot of fat, making them similar to overweight humans. They then measured how well the mice handled sugar by giving them different amounts of the dahlia extract and measuring their sugar levels at various times.
They then tried to figure out which specific parts of the extract worked best.
What did they find?
- The dahlia extract helped overweight mice maintain healthy glucose levels.
- Although butein was a major part of the extract, it did not work well alone. It worked best when combined with one or both of two other substances in the dahlia flower called isoliquiritigenin and sulfuretin.
- The extract made the mice more sensitive to insulin and blocked an inflammatory pathway in their brains that controls blood glucose.
This was a great discovery, as it proved that the dahlia plant was a better treatment for diabetes than the toxic lacquer tree because of these three chemicals occurring together. The scientists then wanted to see whether this extract could help humans with high blood sugar levels. They tested it on 13 people who were either close to having diabetes or already had it. These people were, on average, around 56 years old.
The scientists gave the human participants different amounts of the dahlia extract and then checked their blood sugar levels. The results showed that the extract helped reduce blood sugar levels, especially in people who already had diabetes. The more extract they took, the lower their blood sugar levels became.
The scientists also verified that the extract had no harmful effects on their subjects’ livers, kidneys, or general health.
Unfortunately, unless you have plenty of dahlia in your garden, you will have to wait for the extract that these scientists are currently testing before making it commercially available.