Fig Extract Tempers Blood Sugar Surges

Ficus caricaA standardized extract of figs---a fruit rich in a compound called abscisic acid (ABA)—can attenuate blood glucose surges following consumption of sugar-containing foods or beverages.

“ABA and its proposed receptor, the lanthionine synthase C-like protein 2 (LANCL2) are emerging as new important players in the physiology and in the dysfunction of mammalian glucose homeostasis and immunoregulation,” reported Elena Zocchi, of the Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Genoa.

Dr. Zocchi and colleagues, along with researchers at several US institutions, recently published a comprehensive review of current science on ABA and its potential as an adjunctive modality for glucose regulation.

Low-dose ABA improves glucose tolerance in healthy subjects without increasing insulinemia, she writes, citing evidence from a study of 10 healthy volunteers at the University of Sydney’s Glycemic Index Research Service.

At doses of 100 or 200 mg dissolved in 250 mL of water, ABA markedly reduced both plasma glucose and plasma insulin responses to a bolus of 50 grams of glucose in 250 mL of water.

At 200 mg, the ABA supplement reduced the glucose peak area under the curve (AUC) by 25%, and reduced the insulin peak by 24%.

ABA is a naturally-occurring compound synthesized by a wide variety of plants. Figs happen to have high concentrations, but it is also present in large amounts in bilberries, apricots, bananas, potatos, and soy (milk).

It is also produced endogenously by humans and most other mammals, in whom it has hormone-like effects. Among its main functions, ABA stimulates insulin release from b-cells in the pancreas. It also stimulates glucose transporter-4 (GT4) mediated glucose uptake by myoblasts and adipocytes.

In an earlier review paper from 2015, the Genoa authors note that in normal human subjects, plasma ABA levels typically increase following a high glucose load, such as an oral glucose tolerance test. However, this response tends to be blunted in people with type 2 diabetes, and in women with gestational diabetes.

Magnone cites data indicating that an ABA-rich fruit concentrate taken just prior to an oral glucose challenge or a high-calorie meal reduced the glycemic and insulin response. This early-stage human work builds on a solid base of animal studies showing a consistent and dose-dependent attenuating effect on blood glucose surges.

In essence, supplementation with high concentrations of ABA helps to support an auxiliary glucose control mechanism already present in the body—one that may be significantly impaired in people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

The pre-clinical findings are compelling, and underscore the need for a large-scale clinical study to determine, in fact, ABA could play a meaningful role in the prevention or management of diabetes.

The data from rodent studies and healthy human trials strongly suggest that it could, and there are plausible biochemical mechanisms that would account for such effects.

“ABA not only regulates blood glucose levels and prevents the onset of T2D in mice and rats…microgram amounts of dietary ABA are sufficient to improve glycemic controls in humans,” reported Zocchi and colleagues. “ABA-based interventions have the potential to improve glycemic control in millions of people afflicted by prediabetes, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome worldwide.”

Earlier this year, Euromed—a Spanish company specializing in top-quality bioactive botanical ingredients—introduced a concentrated, standardized ABA ingredient into the worldwide dietary supplement market. Derived from figs (Ficus carica), the ingredient—called ABALife—will deliver precisely controlled doses of ABA without the fructose and the added calories associated with eating fresh or dried figs themselves.