Licorice root contains anti-diabetic substances
Licorice root contains substances called amorfrutins that have an anti-diabetic effect, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.
Amorfrutins reduce blood sugar and are anti-inflammatory. The substances also prevent fatty liver, a disease caused by an excessively fat-rich diet.
The amorfrutin molecules dock directly onto cells and activate genes that reduce the concentration of certain fatty acids and glucose in the blood. The reduced blood sugar inhibits insulin resistance, the main cause of type 2 diabetes.
Licorice root has been used traditionally as a natural remedy to alleviate digestive and airway disorders. The edible root of the licorice plant Glycyrrhiza is mainly administered as tea.
Amorfrutins are also found in the fruit of the Amorpha fruticosa bush, a plant native to the US, Canada and Mexico. These anti-diabetic substances were named after this plant.
Amorfrutins are well tolerated, making it a potential candidate for use in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders or as nutritional supplements.
Drinking licorice tea or eating licorice will not help treat diabetes, according to the researchers. The concentration of amorfrutins in tea or licorice is not sufficient to be effective. Special extraction processes are required to extract sufficient concentrations of amorfrutins.
Diabetes on the rise
An estimated 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the US population, lives with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. About 95 percent of those cases are type 2 diabetes.
The diabetes epidemic is forecast to reach one in ten adults throughout the world by 2030 if current trends continue, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. Excessive blood glucose levels lead to diabetes complications.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include advanced age over 45 years, a family history of diabetes, overweight and obesity, lack of regular exercise, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure, ethnicity, and a personal history of gestational diabetes.
Sources: Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, American Diabetes Association