A naturally produced molecule called resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, has been shown to lower insulin levels in mice when injected directly into the brain, even when the animals ate a high-fat diet.
The findings from a new UT Southwestern Medical Center study suggest that when acting directly on certain proteins in the brain, resveratrol may offer some protection against diabetes. Prior research has shown that the compound exerts anti-diabetic actions when given orally to animals with type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), but it has been unclear which tissues in the body mediated these effects.
“Our study shows that the brain plays an important role in mediating resveratrol’s anti-diabetic actions, and it does so independent of changes in food intake and body weight,” said Dr. Roberto Coppari, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study appearing online and in the December issue of Endocrinology.
“These animals were overrun with fat and many of their organs were inflamed. But when we delivered resveratrol in the brain, it alleviated inflammation in the brain,” added Dr. Coppari.
Dr. Coppari emphasized that his study does not support the conclusion that consuming products made from red grapes, such as red wine, could alleviate diabetes.
This follows up on findings from an earlier study.
Resveratrol, the molecule found in grapes (and the red wine produced from them) and certain other plants, is actively being tested in research laboratories around the world in hopes to find both prevention and relief for illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Clinical trials of resveratrol are also currently under way to combat other diseases, including diabetes.
In late 1999, research was published of a study that showed that type 2 diabetic participants that drank two five-ounce glasses of red wine with their meal experienced lowered incidences of the production of compounds that can produce vascular damage, an interesting result to say the least for those studying diabetes. More recently, studies on mice have shown that even low levels of resveratrol doses can improve their sensitivity to hormone insulin. The findings could lead to the development of new therapies for both prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Continuing research will hopefully tell if resveratrol might have further benefits for not only type 2 diabetes and diabetic vascular disease, but other insulin disorders as well.
Resveratrol is known to activate a gene called SIRT1, and SIRT1 is linked not only to insulin secretion, but also to better insulin sensitivity in mice. Other research has found a connection between SIRT1 and glucose metabolism. Researchers have reported that insulin resistant disorders like diabetes block normal activation of SIRT1, a factor resulting in the active study of SIRT1 activating compounds, of which resveratrol in certainly a front runner.
Ongoing investigation is required before resveratrol supplementation can be responsibly approved for diabetes disorders, but early findings have given enough initial positive results to warrant further research for scientists and medical researchers alike.