A new leaf

I’ve designed a lot of nutritional supplements over the course of my career. So when I see promising research on a new ingredient, I always get excited.

This latest research is no exception. And the breakout ingredient of the moment is (drum roll please)… mulberry leaf extract. A new study–on humans, no less–shows that it might offer a natural way to manage your blood sugar.

It was a small pilot study–a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial featuring just 50 subjects.

Nevertheless, it demonstrated that taking mulberry leaf extract on a daily basis can blunt post-meal blood sugar spikes. Which means it could also potentially lower your risk of diabetes. In fact, some Asian countries already use it for this very purpose. (A little tidbit I learned today–yet another reason I enjoy writing these notes to you.)

Evidently, these benefits trace back to a natural compound called 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ). Previous studies have shown that DNJ blocks the activity of alpha-glucosidase–an enzyme responsible for carbohydrate digestion.

To put it simply, DNJ slows down your body’s digestion of starch and sugar. This, in turn, reduces large blood sugar spikes after you eat. And presumably, it would ward off eventual drops in blood sugar too. (A condition known as reactive hypoglycemia.)

Results certainly confirmed this theory. The researchers found that taking 2.5 to 5 grams of mulberry leaf extract (yielding 9 to 18 mg of DNJ) significantly lowered subjects’ glucose levels.

But other research has pointed to whole mulberry leaf extract–not just DNJ–as the source of blood sugar benefits.

For one thing, mulberry leaf delivers dietary fiber. And dietary fiber slows down the speed at which your body breaks down sugar. But aside from this, mulberry leaf also features a long list of active flavonoids–including chlorogenic acid, rutin and quercetin.

So are mulberry leaf’s benefits the sum of its parts–or does one specific extract get the credit?

Simply put, there’s still a lot more to learn here. But if mulberry helps us to fight our war against diabetes, you can count me in.

But mulberry leaf’s not the only “new” kid on the block making headlines with its diabetes-fighting power.

“Acute intake of mulberry leaf aqueous extract affects postprandial glucose response after maltose loading: Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study.” Journal of Functional Foods. Volume 5, Issue 3, July 2013, Pages 1502-1506.