Healthy living

Strawberries may help treat diabetes

Strawberries may help treat diabetes Could protect brain and other organs

A compound found in strawberries and other vegetables may help the body fight some complications of diabetes.

Fisetin, a naturally occurring flavonoid, has previously been shown to enhance the memory of mice and also to promote the growth of neurons.

Now a new study, by scientists at the Salk Institute's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory in California, has found that fisetin can also prevent some of the complications associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers evaluated the effect of the compound on mice with increased blood pressure typical of both forms of diabetes. These mice will normally develop many of the complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease, loss of vision and even brain disorders such as loss of touch or heat sensations.

Although feeding the mice fisetin did not reverse the diabetes, it did reverse kidney enlargement and reduced urine protein levels. It also alleviated anxiety-related behaviours seen in diabetic mice, as study leader Pam Maher explained: "Anxious mice tend not to move around... these mice showed enhanced anxiety behaviour, but fisetin feeding restored their locomotion to more normal levels."

Encouragingly, the study also found a possible mechanism to explain the beneficial effects of fisetin. It seems that it helps to reduce the effects of chemicals in the brain (advanced glycation end-products or AGEs) which have been linked to many of the complications arising from diabetes.

This also holds out the possibility that fisetin could play a part in fighting some cancers, as high levels of AGEs have been linked to prostate cancer tumour formation.

For a human to ingest the equivalent amount of fisetin consumed by the mice during the trial, it would be necessary to eat nearly 40 strawberries daily - but as yet the results have not been replicated in humans.

But this and other studies suggest that science may find a way to tap into the benefits of flavonoids, as Dr Maher says: "Fisetin and those in blueberry extracts are found in fruits and vegetables and are related to each other chemically. There is increasing evidence that they all work in multiple diseases. Hopefully some combination of these compounds will eventually get to the clinic."

The study is published in PLoS ONE.

This article was published on Tue 28 June 2011

Image © George Dolgikh -

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