Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Antioxidant Reduces Obesity and Diabetes Symptoms

The use of an antioxidant to reverse brain inflammation caused by a high-fat diet greatly improves symptoms related to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In research published in Diabetes, Dr Alex Tups of The University of Otago investigated whether directly stopping inflammatory processes in the brain’s hypothalamus could help lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.

Butein is a flavonoid derived from plants traditionally used in Chinese herbal medicine. Administration of butein either directly into the brain or orally greatly improved the glucose tolerance and brain insulin signalling in mice that were obese due to either a deficiency in the satiety hormone leptin or due to a high-fat diet.

“We also showed that this profound effect was dose-dependent, with better glucose tolerance achieved through higher doses of butein,” Tups says.

There was no noticeable difference in the glucose tolerance of high-fat diet mice treated with the antioxidant and low-fat diet mice that had not received butein.

In a subsequent experiment, inhibition of the inflammatory pathway in the hypothalamus saw mice maintained on a high-fat diet exhibit reduced body weight, build up less fat, expend more energy and show evidence of improved leptin-signalling.

Tups says that the study adds to a growing body of evidence that a diet high in saturated fats activates a cascade of inflammatory processes in the brain that impair leptin and insulin signalling, leading to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Our findings strongly support this idea, and we also show that reversing this inflammation promotes a return towards normal metabolic functioning,” he says.

The research suggests that butein and other natural compounds that block inflammation in the brain should be vigorously investigated as novel anti-diabetic treatments.