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Study: Can Manitoba crops reverse prediabetes?

Manitoba researchers team with Mayo Clinic to see if some foods can delay or prevent diabetes

Pinto bean flour.  Photos: Michael Stringer

Manitoba-grown ingredients might reverse prediabetes, according to researchers behind a new study.

The Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network (MaHRN), in partnership with Minnesota-based Step One Foods, leads the study, funded by Manitoba Jobs and the Economy.

Research kicked off last week when clinical teams met for the first time to determine the criteria for participants, talk details and outline a timeline. Research will be conducted in Manitoba at MaHRN and in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic.

Researchers begin recruiting and screening participants late fall or January at the latest.

Twenty-four participants, at risk for diabetes, will add the products, including carrot powder, pinto bean flour, saskatoon berry powder and pulse puffs, to their diet for 12 weeks while researchers monitor the effect. Twenty-four participants will take placebos.

“If the products can keep the blood glucose lower for more parts of the day, we expect to see less sugar molecules attached to the hemoglobin,” said Dr. Carla Taylor, the lead investigator on the trial.

People with prediabetes have more sugar molecules attached to the hemoglobin, meaning their overall blood sugar level is not in the normal range. They do not have diabetes, but have an increased likelihood of developing the disease.

The Canadian Diabetes Association estimates around 5.7 million Canadians have prediabetes. Nearly 50 per cent of people with prediabetes go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. Heart disease and nerve damage may occur during prediabetes.

“The hypothesis is that after week 12 we will have lowered the amount of blood sugar in (a participant’s) system,” said Lee Anne Murphy, executive director of MaHRN. “If you can slow that progression of sugar buildup or delay it, they may never become a Type 2 diabetic or we may delay the time until they are.”

MaHRN is a non-profit organization that develops food and food ingredients from Manitoba-grown and -processed crops. Murphy hopes the study, if successful, will generate more interest, perhaps even internationally, in Manitoba products.

“The fact that we’re working with Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic and its breadth of both world-class infrastructure as well as exposure to different patients, we’re thinking we’re going to demonstrate that Manitoba-grown and -processed ingredients can be effective in the health-care system.

“You can see where the value back to our growers really should be quite impressive,” she said. Current partners include the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Interlake Saskatoons and the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba.

Murphy met Elizabeth Klodas, co-founder of Step One Foods, at a conference several years ago. Klodas introduced herself after hearing Murphy speak about the health properties of Manitoba products. Over the past several years the two kept in touch and eventually decided to work together.

Klodas, also a cardiologist, said the study aims to improve people’s overall health and how people think about health.

“If I put someone on enough medications I can make anyone’s cholesterol profile perfect,” said Klodas. “But if all they’re eating is Twinkies I haven’t really made them any healthier.

“This (study) is really about impacting health in a really practical way.”

The results will be released sometime in 2016. Products are already commercially available through Step One Foods.

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