Researchers found that a concentrated extract of the substance, called sulforaphane, helped obese type 2 diabetes patients rein in their stubbornly high blood sugar levels.
The caveat, however, is that the study was short-term and small — involving 97 people with diabetes followed for 12 weeks. And the extract was taken in addition to the diabetes drug metformin, not instead of it.
Plus, the extract the researchers used was not like the sulforaphane supplements available at your local health food store.
“The way that you produce and process the extract is important to keep the sulforaphane intact,” said senior researcher Dr. Anders Rosengren, of the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden.
He said his team used a highly concentrated supplement that was tested for purity and side effects.
“At this point,” Rosengren said, “we cannot recommend that anyone take the currently available extracts on the market to treat type 2 diabetes.”
Sulforaphane is a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Broccoli sprouts are a particularly rich source.
Lab research has suggested that sulforaphane may help reduce inflammation in the body, and possibly fight cancer and fatty liver disease, according to Rosengren’s team.
But it has not been studied for type 2 diabetes, which arises when the body can no longer properly use insulin — a blood-sugar regulating hormone. As a result, blood sugar levels soar.
Many people with diabetes have a tough time keeping their blood sugar well-controlled, said Dr. Robert Courgi, an endocrinologist at Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital, in Bay Shore, N.Y.
“Novel medications would be beneficial,” said Courgi, who wasn’t involved in the study.
But he cautioned against drawing conclusions from a small, short-term trial. “More research must be done to explore this product,” Courgi said. “There have been several products that have shown early promise and have since fizzled.”