provides the raw material for liquorice candy, calms the stomach and
alleviates diseases of the airways: liquorice root. The root has been
treasured in traditional healing since ancient times.
at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have now
discovered that liquorice root also contains substances with an
anti-diabetic effect. These amorfrutins not only reduce blood sugar,
they are also anti-inflammatory and are very well tolerated. Thus, they
may be suitable for use in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders.
substances have a surprising and often largely unexploited potential in
the prevention and treatment of common diseases. For example, liquorice
root Glycyrrhiza contains
different substances that help to alleviate disorders of the airways
and digestive system. It has been used for millennia in traditional
healing and is mainly administered in the form of tea. A team of
researchers working with Sascha Sauer from the Max Planck Institute for
Molecular Genetics in Berlin has now discovered that the plant from the
papilionaceae or leguminous family might also be effective in the
treatment of adult (type 2) diabetes. The scientists identified a group
of natural substances with an anti-diabetic effect, the amorfrutins, in
the plant’s edible root.
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. The new anti-diabetic agents were named after this plant, which
is native to the US, Canada and Mexico. As the researchers demonstrated
using diabetic mice, the amorfrutins not only have characteristics that
reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-inflammatory in their effect.
Moreover, they also prevent fatty liver—a common disease caused by
excessively fat-rich nutrition.
health-beneficial effects are based on the fact that the amorfrutin
molecules dock directly onto a receptor in the nucleus called PPAR?,”
explains Sascha Sauer. PPAR? plays an important role in the cell’s fat
and glucose metabolism. The binding of the amorfrutin molecules
activates various genes that reduce the plasma concentration of certain
fatty acids and glucose. The reduced glucose level prevents the
development of insulin resistance—the main cause of adult diabetes.
there are already drugs on the market that affect the PPAR? receptor,
they are not selective enough in their effect and cause side effects
like weight gain and cardio-vascular problems,” says Sascha Sauer. In
contrast, as demonstrated by the studies carried out to date, the
amorfrutins are very well tolerated.
drinking liquorice tea or eating liquorice will not help to treat
diabetes,” explains the scientist. “The concentration of the substances
in the tea and liquorice is far too low to be effective.”
researchers therefore developed special extraction processes to obtain
the amorfrutins from the plant in sufficient concentrations. This could
be used to produce amorfrutin extracts on an industrial scale.
newly discovered active substances not only seem to hold great promise
for the treatment of complex metabolic disorders, they may also be
suitable for prophylactic use.
amorfrutins can be used as functional nutritional supplements or as
mild remedies that are individually tailored to the patient,” says
Sascha 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.”
do this, the researchers must now test the effect of the substances and
the plant amorfrutin extracts in clinical studies on diabetes patients.