Does a nutrient found in beets reduce diabetes risk?

Does a nutrient found in beets reduce diabetes risk?


Beets have all sorts of health benefits—fiber,
potassium, folate, metabolites. That last one
may not be as familiar as the others, but it’s just as important to the functioning
of your body, and researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center are
probing the possibilities that a particular nutrient metabolite
found in beets and other vegetables and grains could reduce insulin resistance.
Metabolites are small molecules which can help cells to function or are the byproducts
of cellular metabolic processes. The metabolite being
studied by Allison Goldfine, M.D., and her collaborators, is
found in high concentrations in beets, and levels in the blood of people who have insulin
resistance, prediabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors
are lower than in healthy people. This association spurred Dr. Mary Elizabeth
Patti, to see if replacing this nutritional metabolite found in
beets would improve health of mice fed a high-fat diet. Her lab showed that levels [of the metabolite]
dropped when rats were fed a high-fat diet, but after the treatment, metabolism in mice
improved. These positive outcomes have encouraged Dr.
Allison Goldfine and her collaborators to move forward
into human trials. Dr.Grizales, could you please tell us more
about Betaine and what your laboratory is working on?
Dr. Grizales: Insulin resistance precedes and predicts type 2 diabetes and is considered
an important risk factor. We performed careful measures of insulin
sensitivity in about 40 people with risk for diabetes
but who did not have diabetes and looked for the metabolites in their blood that were associated
with insulin resistance. We found that Betaine,
a modified amino acid, was strongly associated with insulin
resistance. So in collaboration with Dr. Patti, we looked at how Betaine was regulated by
high fat diet in rodents, and if replacement had any effect
on the blood sugars of these animals. We were pleased to
see that the sugars were lower in rats given Betaine in their diets. Betaine is a dietary
constituent commonly found in beets and whole grains.
It plays several roles in cellular metabolism and it is
currently used as a drug for treatment in patients with a rare metabolic disorder, also
available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement, which
makes it safe for human consumption at the doses being
studied. We have epidemiologic data that associates
low Betaine levels with insulin resistance and cardiovascular
disease risk in humans. So now we want to know if we give it to people in a controlled
clinical trial, can we improve three measures that we think are
most important? The three outcome measures being studied include
whether the oral supplement improves sugar levels
and insulin resistance, improves blood vessel function as a marker of cardiovascular risk,
and reduces liver fat.
We are recruiting overweight individuals with pre-diabetes or risk factors for diabetes,
but not clinical diabetes. So we’re looking for people who
are overweight, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
levels, or a family member with diabetes, or women with a history of diabetes during
pregnancy, or Partners Human Research Committee
APPROVAL Effective Date 5/2/2014
people who are ethnic minorities. Interested participants will be screened for type 2 diabetes
before entering the trial.
Interviewer: The Trial participation involves two overnight stays in the clinical research
center of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital—at the beginning
and at the end of the study to measure insulin resistance, blood vessel function, and liver
fat before and after starting treatment. This study is funded
by a grant from the American Diabetes Association. If you are interested in learning more about
this clinical trial, please contact Ana Maria Grizales
at 617-309-4736 or email [email protected]

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