Life Extension Magazine February 2014
Suppress Blood Sugar Without Drugs
By Eduardo Vasquez
The research is conclusive—the longer you wait to tame age-related blood sugar increases, the greater your odds of succumbing to diabetes and its associated increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, cancer, and blindness.1-3 For the majority of aging individuals,urgent action is needed.1,2
The public has not yet recognized the magnitude of damage inflicted after consumption of what most consider only a moderate amount of starch or sugar.
A widely publicized study showed that drinking just one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soda daily resulted in an 18-22% increased risk of type II diabetes.4 While health-conscious people may avoid sodas, there are so many glucose-spiking foods in our diets that virtually none of us are immune.
Hard science reveals that fasting blood sugar above 85 mg/dL is associated with increased risks of death and disease. Unfortunately, most adult glucose levels are well above this range.1,2,5
Aging humans should take assertive steps before eating carbohydrates to impede the absorption of glucose into their bloodstream. Just as important, however, is the need to suppress excess production of glucose in our liver and to improve uptake of blood glucose into our muscle cells as opposed to it being stored as fat.
The breaking news for those who want to avoid drugs is the discovery of three plant-derived nutrients that target underlying reasons why 80% of American adults today have higher than optimal glucose levels.6
The July 3, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the impact of fructose on human health.7
High-fructose corn syrup represents over 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages. It’s often the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States.8
The digestion and metabolic effects of fructose differ from that of glucose.7 Fructose is metabolized in the liver in a way that favors formation of new fat (lipogenesis).7 Unlike glucose, fructose does not induce normal satiety signals. Fructose thus contributes to overeating that can lead to weight gain.7 The increased use of high-fructose corn syrup in the US mirrors the rapid increase in obesity.9
The JAMA review of fructose first explained the mistaken belief in the 1990s that obesity was caused by over-consumption of dietary fat.7 Back then, high sugar intake was considered neutral and possibly even protective against obesity by displacing dietary fat.7
A decade later, the American Heart Association urged drastic reductions in sugar consumption because of concern it was contributing to weight gain.7 Experts now argue that sugar intake is the most important cause of what has become a worldwide epidemic of diabetes and obesity.
Focusing on fructose, the JAMA review described the adverse impact of high fructose consumption that includes fatty liver, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, and fat deposition into tissue.7
The JAMA review then discussed how fructose contained in fruit has not shown these unfavorable effects.7 They report that even when human subjects consume huge amounts of fructose in fruit, there have been beneficial effects seen on blood pressure, lipids, insulin, and body weight. The reason is the slow digestion rate of whole fruit compared to a sugar-sweetened beverage.
The JAMA review pointed out that excess intake of refined sugars and high-glycemic starches plays a significant role in obesity and concluded that “…public health efforts should focus on reducing intakes of all highly refined processed carbohydrates, not just refined sugar.”7
This review, published in an internationally recognized medical journal, accompanied by corroborating research data from other studies, is a wakeup call for aging humans to initiate definitive steps to impede the rapid absorption of sugar into their bloodstream.7-10
Why Most of Us Have Too Much Glucose
Elevated blood sugar is blamed on eating too many sweets. Yet type II diabetes can be caused by excess production of glucose internally as well as overconsumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates.
To put this in perspective, look at the primitive conditions that existed throughout 99% of human history. Ancestral human diets typically consisted of low levels of refined carbohydrates…mainly just protein and fat from whatever the day’s hunt yielded along with fibrous vegetables.11 Yet our bodies require a continuous supply of glucose to sustain brain cell energy production.12
Once blood glucose levels drop below 50 mg/dL we become severely hypoglycemic and are at significantly increased risk for adverse clinical outcomes and death!13 So we adapted a survival mechanism by which our liver produces glucose from protein (and sometimes fat) in a process called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis served us well when food was scarce, but in today’s world of boundless calorie abundance, this glucose-generator conspires to spike our blood sugar to dangerous levels.
The medical profession has yet to recognize the magnitude of this epidemic problem. Conventional doctors wait until fasting glucose crosses the 125 mg/dL threshold to label you as diabetic and only then recommend treatment. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a watchful physician. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of type II diabetes remains dangerously underreported and underdiagnosed.14
It is thus up to individuals to take control of their bodies and incorporate proven methods to reduce and protect against the devastating impact of surplus blood glucose.
Fortunately, researchers have identified three natural ingredients that can safely reduce the amount of extra sugar produced in the liver, reduce the rate of sugar absorption, and facilitate transporting sugar out of the bloodstream into energy-producing cells. Each of these three natural ingredients acts independently and complementarily to protect against age-related increases in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Together with lifestyle and behavioral changes, compounds that target mechanisms involved in excess blood sugar are vital if we are to achieve optimal longevity.
Natural Ingredient #1:
Mulberry Leaf Extract
An extract from the mulberry leaf has been used in Chinese traditional medicine to treat various problems, particularly those involving blood sugar control.21,24 Scientists have discovered evidence to validate this traditional use.24 It turns out that mulberry works to support healthy blood sugar levels via several effective mechanisms.
Inhibiting The Alpha-Glucosidase Enzyme
DNJ (1-deoxynojirimycin) is a component found in mulberry that can fool the body into believing that it is a sugar molecule.24
By “mimicking” sugar, DNJ binds to the alpha-glucosidase enzyme whose job is to “look” for starches in your intestines to break them down into sugars.24,25 When DNJ binds to alpha-glucosidase, the body can’t process as much starch, so this starch (and its calories) passes through the intestine, rather than being absorbed into your blood as sugar.24,26
The binding of DNJ to alpha-glucosidase thus allows you to reduce the sugar load in your bloodstream that is created every time you eat a starchy meal. Mulberry inhibits starch-related blood sugar rise in a similar fashion as acarbose, a prescription medication used for blood sugar control.27 Acarbose helps reduce after-meal blood sugar spikes by inhibiting alpha-glucosidase. Studies demonstrate that mulberry leaf extracts reduce after-meal rises in glucose.24,28
Daily use of mulberry leaf extracts can even delay the onset of type II diabetes in experimental models, significantly lowering after-meal insulin and glucose levels and delaying the development of diabetes.28
The DNJ in mulberry also reduces the production of excess glucose in the liver (gluconeogenesis) as does the anti-diabetic drug metformin.29,30 Because around 47% of fasting sugar (after 14 hours of fasting) comes from the liver pumping out glucose, this inhibition can significantly lower the amount of excess glucose circulating in your bloodstream.31
A human study compared mulberry with a leading anti-diabetic drug called glyburide.32 This drug lowers glucose by boosting pancreatic production of insulin.33 We at Life Extension have long warned against this sulfonylurea drug because excess insulin boosts cancer risk and damages cells throughout the body.
In this experiment, 24 people with type II diabetes were treated either with mulberry extract or with glyburide for 30 days.32 The researchers found that mulberry leaf extract lowered fasting blood sugar significantly more than glyburide.32
The patients in the mulberry-supplemented group had an impressive 27% drop in their fasting blood sugar, from 153 mg/dL down to 111 mg/dL. Those taking glyburide saw only an 8% drop in their fasting blood sugar levels, from 154 mg/dL to 142 mg/dL. Patients taking mulberry saw their hemoglobin A1c blood level (a long-term measure of blood sugar levels) fall 10%.32 Those taking glyburide showed no decrease at all.
And the health benefits of mulberry did not stop with reducing blood sugar levels. The study showed that mulberry also had a positive impact on lipid profiles such as cholesterol that affect cardiovascular health. Those treated with mulberry showed a 12% decrease in total cholesterol and a 16% decrease in triglycerides. In the glyburide group, there was no real improvement in any of the lipid measurements from baseline.32
Patients taking mulberry saw their protective HDL levels rise by a significant 18%, compared to just 3% in the glyburide group.32 Raising protective HDL levels has been a huge research target for the leading pharmaceutical companies and so far their efforts have failed. Mulberry clearly demonstrated its ability to improve both metabolic and cardiovascular markers without boosting insulin levels, in contrast to the insulin-boosting drug glyburide.
In another impressive human trial, volunteers were given a mulberry leaf extract enriched with additional DNJ content. After taking the mulberry extract,the patients drank water containing 50 grams (nearly 2 ounces) of sugar.20 Mulberry extract suppressed the expected rise in glucose and kept insulin levels safely low, even in the face of this impressive ingestion of pure table sugar.
Additional human research shows that mulberry extract improves lipid profiles in non-diabetic volunteers as well. One study of non-diabetic people focused on those with mild lipid abnormalities who had tried to improve their lipids with diet and failed.34 The results showed that 280 mg of mulberry leaf extract three times a day decreased triglycerides by 10.2% at 4 weeks and 12.5% at 8 weeks. By the end of the 12-week study, total cholesterol was down by 4.9%, triglycerides had fallen by 14.1%, and LDL had decreased by 5.6% from baseline values. Furthermore, beneficial HDL was increased by 19.7%.34
A similar study involved a group of subjects who started out with very high triglycerides averaging 312 mg/dL, more than double the upper limit of optimal.24 In this study, subjects took the DNJ-rich mulberry extract (12 mg three times daily) before meals for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the mean triglyceride level had fallen to 252 mg/dL, which is still in the danger range. In 20% of the subjects, however, triglycerides fell to below 150 mg/dL—a reduction greater than 50%!24 There was a significant lowering in small or very low density LDL-cholesterol particles, which are especially dangerous because they are readily oxidized and are strongly associated with atherosclerosis.24
Mulberry Increases Insulin Sensitivity Via GLUT4
In addition to suppressing gluconeogenesis and alpha-glucosidase, mulberry leaf extract functions in another important way. By enhancing insulin sensitivity, mulberry helps shuttle sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells where it can be utilized more readily. It accomplishes this improvement in insulin sensitivity and lowering of blood sugar levels by stimulating a cellular transporter called GLUT4.21
Mulberry increases not only the number of GLUT4 transporters but also facilitates their movement to the surface of the cell membrane, thus insulin sensitivity improves since glucose molecules are more readily moved into the cells of the body to enhance energy output.21 In fact, metformin, one of the most impressive and well studied anti-diabetes drugs, works in part by increasing GLUT4 in cells.35
In a laboratory study, researchers showed that they could increase glucose uptake in cells by as much as 54% with mulberry leaf extract.21
Anti-diabetic drugs such as Actos® can sometimes induce unwanted weight gain.36 An intriguing experiment with lab animals showed that mulberry leaf extract eliminated the body weight gain caused by pioglitazone (Actos®) treatment.36 In the same study, mulberry leaf extract also increased the beneficial hormone adiponectin, which regulates glucose levels, reduces fat accumulation, and lowers damaging inflammatory mediators.36