The study – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – reports that compounds isolated from liquorice roots could have benefits for treating symptoms of diabetes.
The substances, which have a simple chemical structure, are not only found in liquorice root, but are also in the fruit of the Amorpha fruticosa bush – from which the potentially anti-diabetic compound derives its name.
“The health-beneficial effects are based on the fact that the amorfrutin molecules dock directly onto a receptor in the nucleus called PPAR-gamma,” explained Dr Sascha Sauer, who led the research project. The expert noted that PPAR-gamma plays an important role in fat and glucose metabolism.
“The binding of the amorfrutin molecules activates various genes that reduce the plasma concentration of certain fatty acids and glucose,” he said. “The reduced glucose level prevents the development of insulin resistance – the main cause of adult diabetes.”
However, the expert said that drinking liquorice tea or eating liquorice candy will not help to treat diabetes: “The concentration of the substances in the tea and liquorice is far too low to be effective.”
The team have therefore developed a special extraction processes to help obtain the amorfrutins from the plant in sufficient concentrations. They said the process could be used to produce amorfrutin extracts on an industrial scale.
“The amorfrutins can be used as functional nutritional supplements or as mild remedies that are individually tailored to the patient,” said Sauer.
“In view of the rapid spread of metabolic diseases like diabetes, it is intended to develop these substances further so that they can be used on humans in the future,” he added.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1116971109
“Amorfrutins are potent antidiabetic dietary natural products”
Authors: C. Weidner, J.C. de Groot, A. Prasad, A. Freiwald, C. Quedenau