Broccoli extract can help type 2 diabetes patients manage their blood sugar. The extract has great advantages over traditional medicine, according to researchers.

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The Swedish researchers discovered that the substance sulforaphane – which is found in broccoli – can help diabetes patients.

The study had 97 patients with type 2 diabetes participating, those who received the extract had significantly lower levels of blood sugar.

Compared with drugs available on the market today, the broccoli extract is estimated to have several major benefits as it affects a central disease mechanism, namely that the liver produces too much sugar.

Sulforaphane improved the patients’ systems’ ability to control their glucose levels and reduced their glucose production. These two symptoms of diabetes that can lead to other health problems, including coronary artery disease, nerve damage and blindness.

By interrogating a library of 3800 drug signatures, we identified sulforaphane as a compound that may reverse the disease signature. Sulforaphane suppressed glucose production from hepatic cells by nuclear translocation of nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (NRF2) and decreased expression of key enzymes in gluconeogenesis.

Moreover, sulforaphane reversed the disease signature in the livers from diabetic animals and attenuated exaggerated glucose production and glucose intolerance by a magnitude similar to that of metformin. Finally, sulforaphane, provided as concentrated broccoli sprout extract, reduced fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in obese patients with dysregulated type 2 diabetes.

Sulforaphane is a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Broccoli sprouts are a particularly rich source.

The broccoli extract would not be registered as medicine, instead, the researcher’s goal is to produce it as a functional food with positive health effects.

To reach the same amount of sulforaphane served to the patients in the study, you would need to eat a lot of broccoli. Each dose is equivalent to five kilograms of broccoli.

More than 300 million people across the globe are afflicted by type 2 diabetes. The drug ‘metformin’ is the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, however, of the, as many as 15% of the afflicted population cannot take Metformin due to the risk of kidney damage. Sulforaphane could, therefore, act as an attractive substitutive.

The findings were published online in Science Translational Medicine.


Annika S. Axelsson1, Emily Tubbs et al. Sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah4477