Beets 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.