Can carrots help combat diabetes?
Researcher Eva Arnspang Christensen has for the first time shown a connection between the substance falcarindiol in carrots and diabetes. Now she is chasing money to test whether carrots can fight diabetes in a clinical trial.
– My findings from looking at the cells from rats tell me that there is a connection between carrots and diabetes, says researcher Eva Arnspang Christensen.
Together with research colleagues, Eva Arnspang Christensen from the Department of Green Technology at the University of Southern Denmark has studied tissue from rat polyps, which are precursors to bowel cancer. When the researchers added falcarindiol, which is a natural component found in carrots, they found a substantial reduction in the number of polyps.
– We saw a big effect. When the falcarindiol was mixed in the rat feed, the rats had 40-80 per cent fewer polyps, says Eva Arnspang Christensen.
But under the microscope, Eva Arnspang Christensen also made another discovery. When she explored the rats' cancer tissue, she discovered that falcarindiol had two other effects, that then made her think of diabetes.
My findings from looking at the cells from rats tell me that there is a connection between carrots and diabetes.
Carrots against diabetes
200,000-300,000 Danes have type 2 diabetes, and the number of people with diabetes has more than tripled since 1996. Therefore, researchers are desperately looking for drugs that can prevent the common disease - and perhaps falcarindiol is that drug.
1,2,3,4… Under the microscope, researcher Eva Arnspang Christensen counts fat drops in the petri dish. Lipid droplets are a place where cells store fats, and research in recent years has found a link between lipid droplets and diabetes.
– We can see that when we add falcarindiol from carrots to the cells, we see more lipid droplets, points out Eva Arnspang Christensen.
In addition to several lipid droplets, the researchers also saw a decrease in the quantity of a cholesterol-transporting protein. Cholesterol is a vital fat for all our cells, but type 2 diabetes patients have too much cholesterol in their blood, and it can be dangerous.
– I was happy when I saw that our data showed that something is happening with the number of lipid droplets and at the same time we see a decrease in quantity the cholesterol-transporting protein. This supports my thesis that there is a connection between carrot and diabetes, emphasizes Eva Arnspang Christensen, who has had her results published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Although the findings come from cancer cells that come from rats, she is now determined to pursue the results, and she has sought money for a large controlled trial among diabetic patients, where she will investigate the effect of falcarindiol on diabetes.
– Because falcarindiol is a naturally occurring substance, it is possible with the right grant, to do experiments with humans. But while we wait and cross our fingers, I have two thesis students who are investigating the effect of falcarindiol on cultured diabetes cells, says Eva Arnspang Christensen.
Meet the researcher
Eva Arnspang Christensen is Associate Professor and Head of Section at SDU Biotechnology, Department of Green Technology. For many years, she, as a researcher, has been involved in proving that falcarindiol from carrots can cure and prevent bowel cancer. Now she is pursuing the drug's influence on diabetes. Personally, she eats 200 grams of carrots a day.
In collaboration with
Experiments with falcarindiol have been made in collaboration with: Morten Kobæk-Larsen, Associate Professor and researcher in gastrointestinal diseases at the Surgical Research Unit at SDU/OUH in Svendborg, Professor Lars Porskjær Christensen from Department of Green Technology and Assistant Professor Rime Bajih from Department of Green Technology.