Aronia berries may be solution to unstable blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes
They are small, completely dark red and have a taste that makes your mouth pucker when you eat them straight from the bush. And now aronia berries – often called the healthiest berries in the world – may also turn out to be the future solution to the hard-to-control blood sugar levels that type 2 diabetes patients struggle with.
Over the next few years, an exciting new collaboration between Aarhus University and Elkærholm, a family-run firm that breeds aronia berries and makes aronia juice, will be investigating whether the type 2 diabetes patients of the future can benefit from taking aronia berries, and in what form.
The hypothesis has not been plucked out of thin air. Several previous studies have already shown that aronia berries, which have a particularly high antioxidant content, can for example alleviate inflammatory conditions in humans. If Elkærholm’s owners, Dorthe and Hans Peter Søeberg, believe that the berries may also have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, the reason is that they became aware of the possible effect of these small dark-red berries as long as 20 years ago.
‘We had a dream of growing foods that could do more than just fill you up. When we heard about aronia berries, we went looking for more information. A librarian at the Agricultural Council’s Advisory Centre found us some scientific articles indicating that the berries could reduce blood sugar, among other things. That inspired us: we planted our first aronia bushes in 2001, and then spent the noughties learning to grow them. For the past 10 years, we have been collaborating with the University of Southern Denmark and Aarhus University to work out how to maximize the quantity of bioactive substances’, says Dorthe Søeberg.
One of those who have joined the new project, which is supported by the Danish Diabetes Academy and Innovation Fund Denmark, is PhD student Christine Bodelund Christiansen of Aarhus University.
‘A fundamental problem for people with type 2 diabetes is controlling blood sugar. We hope that supplementing with aronia berries will turn out to make it easier to control. One exciting thing about this project is that we are working on fermenting the aronia extract, as we have an idea that this may enhance the effect. We will primarily be carrying out clinical trials in which subjects will be exposed to fermented aronia extract, unfermented aronia extract and a placebo, in order to establish whether or not fermenting the berries makes a difference’, says Christine Bodelund Christiansen.
Tore Christiansen, the Managing Director of the Danish Diabetes Academy, is looking forward to following the research at the Jutland-based berry-growing company over the next couple of years.
‘Sustainability, innovation, a young researcher and ultimately a potential product usable as a supplement to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes: the DDA could only support an opportunity like that. The DDA aims to facilitate more collaboration between universities and industry – and we look forward to following this project closely in the years to come’, he says.