North Carolina A&T State University Defending Diabetics: Developing Flavonoid-Enriched Foods to Prevent and Treat Diabetes

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

Retaking The Field Volume 3 “Retaking the Field: Empowering Agricultural Sciences for Health” is a collaborative report from eleven universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report — the third in SoAR’s series — explores the success of research projects funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the flagship competitive grants program of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). It is part of SoAR’s broader education and advocacy initiative to encourage additional federal support for food and agricultural research. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 3: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research Click to download report

More Stories from the community

Raising Resilient Pigs

Through cutting-edge genome editing, scientists are working to help the swine (pig) industry produce healthier, more resilient animals. Genome editors are enzymes that allow scientists to cut the DNA strands in cells at a specific position and introduce very precise genetic changes. With funding from USDA, scientists at Iowa State University and Kansas State University have discovered a genetic marker in pigs that is associated with resistance to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Read More
Helping Honey Bees

Insect pollinators are essential to U.S. growers of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Honey bees are the premier managed pollinators of most crops, accounting for $11.7 billion of the $15 billion of agricultural output attributable to insect-mediated pollination. Since the mid-2000s, beekeepers have consistently suffered annual honey bee colony losses of 31-46%.

Read More
Helping Hearts: Discovering the Impacts of Flavonoids and Interpersonal Gut Variations to Improve Cardiovascular Health

The American Heart Association notes a recent study that showed millions of people worldwide could prevent early deaths and disability from heart disease by eating more fruits and vegetables. Some health benefits associated with this diet are derived from pigments present in plants called flavonoids. Dr. Federico Rey and his team studies how flavanoids can improve human health.

Read More