In type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly to control blood sugar. As diabetes progresses, it can lead to other serious long-term health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, nerve damage and kidney disease. High blood sugar, called hyperglycemia, also affects energy levels and mood.
Most people with diabetes must take injectable insulin or another oral medication to keep the condition under control. Researchers have long searched for other potential treatments that could reduce the severity of the disease.
New research shows that the petals of dahlia flowers — native to Mexico and Central America and a colorful favorite among gardeners — contain an extract that can help stabilize blood sugar levels. The extract can be used to regulate blood sugar in diabetics and as early intervention in people with prediabetes.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand looked at the effects of biotin, a molecule found in dahlia petals that can reduce brain inflammation.
Although insulin resistance is most often associated with a hormonal deficiency in the pancreas, there is a growing scientific interest in how the brain works to support blood sugar balance. Since researchers had previously linked brain inflammation to metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, they wanted to test whether controlling this inflammation with biotin could help regulate blood sugar.
The research began in 2015 and gained momentum after dahlia extract showed promising results in mice. The extract contains three compounds — biotin, isolequiritigenin, and sulforitin — that reduce inflammation in the brains of mice.
“This specifically prevented brain inflammation and improved blood sugar regulation in preclinical trials,” said Alexander Tops, one of the study’s authors.
Next, a clinical trial including 13 people with diabetes and prediabetes showed that dahlia extract is effective in managing blood sugar.
The benefit of a natural source like flower is that molecules that enhance its anti-inflammatory effects can be grown for extraction.
“As scientists, our work is often done when we find out how something works. So in this case, finding three compounds found in the flower that collectively improve blood sugar regulation was a dream come true,” Toups said. High blood sugar is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people around the world. I truly hope and believe that the results of our extensive research will benefit people with this condition.
The extract’s ability to improve brain function could make it valuable in treating chronic fatigue syndrome and long-term Covid, Toups told Medical News Today.
The petals and tubers of organically grown dahlias are believed to have a number of medicinal benefits. In addition to their antibiotic properties, the tubers are a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, riboflavin, manganese and copper.
A research team in New Zealand has since patented its extract and developed a tablet called Dahlia4 which is sold as a natural glucose support compound. The tablet has not yet been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Graham Strong, who collaborated with the research team to develop the tablet, said: “The product provides a unique combination of nutritional compounds to support normal blood sugar and insulin levels. Trials have shown that this will be beneficial for those diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes to help with Stop the progression of the condition.”