More than 30 million Americans have diabetes and more than 80 million American adults have prediabetes. In 2015, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming around 80,000 lives. The chronic intake of food products, beverages, and cigarette smoke that contain certain compounds—methylglyoxal (MGO) and glyoxal (GO)—has been shown to cause diabetes and related complications.
Dr. Shengmin Sang is working to determine if there are dietary strategies focused on flavonoid consumption that can prevent diabetes, as well as diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Flavonoids are the natural compounds that are widely distributed in almost every food including fruits, vegetables, beans, tea, and coffee. Recent studies have shown that dietary flavonoids can assist the gut microbiome in removing MGO and GO. Therefore, the consumption of flavonoid-enriched foods holds promise to improve the lives of those afflicted by diabetes.
Dr. Sang studies foods with the most active flavonoids—apple, tea and soy. His group studied the harmful effects of MGO alone, and in combination with a high-fat diet on the development of diabetes and related complications in mice, and the preventive effects of different flavonoids against the harmful effects induced by MGO. His work also demonstrated that certain flavonoids are more active than others, and that the microbiomes in the guts of individuals react differently to various types of flavonoids.
This knowledge is important to develop dietary strategies that will enhance diabetics’ quality of life. Consuming bioactive foods to prevent or delay complications from diabetes is a safe, economical way to improve public health.
I am a big fan of a healthy lifestyle and believe that Mother Nature has cures for chronic diseases. I hope our findings will inspire the public to eat healthy foods and use dietary strategies to prevent diseases.
-Dr. Shengmin Sang