Insulin sensitivity was improved and glucose was prevented from entering into the liver by a natural sugar in tests on mice.
The natural sugar, called trehalose, appears to have some interesting benefits, however more research will be needed to see if it is appropriate in one day treating humans with type 2 diabetes.
Trehalose consists of two glucose molecules and is used as a sweetener in products including chewing gum.
When researchers gave mice the sugar via water, the results demonstrated a positive impact on their liver metabolism, consistent with a process during fasting in mice which improved the body’s ability to use insulin.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said trehalose kick-started a gene called Aloxe3, leading an improvement in insulin sensitivity. Other benefits following this gene activation included a rise in the number of calories burned, a reduction in fat accumulatio, less weight gain, and reduced fats and cholesterol in the blood.
Dr Brian DeBosch, one of the researchers who worked on the study, said: “We learned that this gene, Aloxe3, improves insulin sensitivity in the same way that common diabetes drugs – called thiazolidinediones – improve insulin sensitivity. And we showed that Aloxe3 activation in the liver is triggered by both trehalose and by fasting, possibly for the same reason: depriving the liver of glucose.”
Additionally, the study revealed that trehalose protected mice, that were given obesity-inducing diet and those genetically prone to obesity, from metabolic disease.
Dr DeBosch noted however that certain digestive enzymes in the gut could break down the trehalose molecule into two glucose molecules which could then raise blood sugar and be counterproductive.
Often research in mice provides results that seem too good to be true and this may be the case with trehalose. Human research studies will be needed to see if the sugar has overall benefits.
To date, there have questions about whether trehalose in the diet may be linked to a rise in cases of Clostridium difficile bacterial infections.
The study was published by the American Society for Clinical Investigation’s journal JCI Insight.

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