Can Nutrients in Beets Help with Type 2 Diabetes?

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A molecule found in beets may help in type 2 diabetesBeets have all sorts of health benefits—fiber, potassium, folate, metabolites. That last one may not be as familiar as the others, but they’re 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 Mary Elizabeth Patti, M.D., to see if replacing this nutritional metabolite found in beets would improve health of mice fed a high-fat diet. “We showed that levels [of the metabolite] dropped when rats were fed a high-fat diet,” said Dr. Patti. But after the treatment, metabolism in mice improved.

These positive outcomes have encouraged Dr. Goldfine to move forward into human trials. Because this metabolite is currently used as a drug for treatment in patients with a rare metabolic disorder, and is available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement, Dr. Goldfine and her team know the metabolite is safe for human consumption in at the doses being studied. If the human trial outcomes are positive, this could be an inexpensive and effective new treatment for insulin resistance.

“So we’ve got epidemiologic data that associates low 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.

This three-month, 30-person trial is currently 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 people who are ethnic minorities [who have a higher risk for the disease],” said Dr. Goldfine. Interested participants will be screened for type 2 diabetes before entering the trial.

Trial participation involves two overnight stays in the clinical research center of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital—one at the beginning of the study to measure insulin resistance, blood vessel function, and liver fat before starting treatment, and one after the participant has been randomized to either the supplement or the placebo. Study participants should be able to travel to the Longwood Medical Area in Boston.

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


7 Responses to Can Nutrients in Beets Help with Type 2 Diabetes?

  1. John Canty says:

    Please advise of any renumeration fo participation.

  2. Herlinda E. Gonzales says:

    Sign me up!

  3. I have pre dieabeates I am 14 .8 bmi 32 I am 50 years old and 6.0 on a fast blood preashure 128 /84 colestral 6 can you help me I would love to do your trial thank you

  4. Laura says:

    This post, “Can Nutrients in Beets help type 2 Diabetes,” and the clinical trials with humans on beets metabolites was published on January 8th, 2014, over a year ago. I would love to hear about the results! Did beet metabolites help control diabetes. Was there any impact of beets on diabetes? Would you please be so kind as to email me back the trial results?

    Thank you!

    • Hello, thanks for your question. Ana Maria Grizales says “We really appreciate your interest in finding out about our study. We are trying to evaluate whether the supplementation of a nutrient in beets will improve insulin sensitivity, liver fat, and blood vessel function in persons with prediabetes and those who are overweight. Unfortunately, the trial has not ended yet, and we are still recruiting interested participants, so we are unable to answer your questions at this point in time, but we will be happy to share the results at the end of the study.”

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