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Berry Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

In a new study, researchers investigated the effect of a particular berry on blood sugar and insulin levels in type 2 diabetes. Of the approximately 24 million cases of diabetes in the United States, type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90 percent. Type 2 diabetes is caused by either insufficient insulin production from the pancreas or insulin insensitive “target” cells that are unresponsive to the insulin that is produced, which results in an increase in blood sugar (glucose).

In this recently published study, researchers treated mice genetically predisposed to develop type 2 diabetes with bilberry extract. Bilberry is a relative of the blueberry and is high in anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidant constituents. The mice were evaluated for blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity of their peripheral “target” cells. The mice were also evaluated for possible mechanisms in which bilberry may modulate glucose and insulin metabolism.

The study showed that supplementation with bilberry extract in the diabetic mice decreased blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity. This improvement was due to an increase in the liver, skeletal muscle, and white adipose (fat) tissue of an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays an important role in insulin secretion from the pancreas and regulation of fatty acid metabolism. The researchers also showed that bilberry up-regulated the glucose-4 transporter (GLUT4) in both skeletal muscle and white adipose tissue; GLUT4 is a protein cell receptor that moves glucose from the blood into the cells in response to insulin. Additionally, enzymes in the liver for fatty acid synthesis were reduced and enzymes catalyzing the breakdown of fatty acids were increased.

The researchers concluded, “These findings provide a biochemical basis for the use of bilberry fruits and have important implications for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes via activation of AMPK.”

This article was published on Wednesday November 09, 2011.
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Takikawa M, Inoue S, Horio F, Tsuda T. Dietary Anthocyanin-Rich Bilberry Extract Ameliorates Hyperglycemia and Insulin Sensitivity via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Diabetic Mice. J Nutr. 2010 Jan 20. Published Online Ahead of Print.