Controlling blood sugar levels with ‘flower power’

garden bed of dahlias

Anyone older than 50 is likely to know the phrase ‘flower power’. It was coined by beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to encourage peaceful protests against war. Now, with dahlias identified in a new study as potentially controlling blood sugar levels, ‘flower power’ has a new meaning.

And ironically, given the slogan’s traditional association with the peace movement, dahlias are being described as a weapon against diabetes.

The active ingredient that could help control blood sugar levels – butein – is found in dalhia petals. Most of us would already agree that it’s the petals that give dahlias their beauty. But the fact that they could help treat diabetes takes them to a new level. Dahlias are like the perfect partner – beautiful and smart!

How can dahlias help control blood sugar levels?

As with many scientific breakthroughs, identifying dahlias as a flower superpower came through a happy accident. The dietary flavonoid butein was established as a weapon against brain inflammation in 2015. Reducing brain inflammation can improve blood sugar levels in people who have issues with blood sugar level control.

Dr Alexander Tups, associate professor at New Zealand’s University of Otago, happened to mention this to a colleague over a coffee. His colleague’s response led to a light-bulb moment: “Did you know that dahlias may contain that molecule?”

It was a serendipitous moment. “This was a start of a fantastic journey,” said Dr Tups. “International dahlia experts were growing dahlias in the far south of New Zealand, and were happy to supply the flowers.”

Butein had been found in a toxic plant, Toxicodendron vernicifluum, but the possibility of extraction from a non-toxic plant was exciting.

Dr Tups, a co-author of the new study, set about formulating an extract from dahlia petals containing butein. His team then tested it successfully on mice. But the good news did not stop there. In collaboration with a team of plant chemistry experts, Dr Tups and his colleagues found even more beauty in dahlias. They identified two molecules in dahlia petals that could enhance butein’s effect in controlling blood sugar levels.

What about us humans?

That’s a fair question. Medical research is littered with treatments that were successful on mice but proved ineffective in human trials. In this case, though, dahlias are the gift that keeps on giving. Not only has the dahlia extract been shown to be effective in human trials, it produced no observable side-effects.

So successful were the human trials that the new extract, marketed as Dahlia4, is already available. It’s not cheap, though. The Dahlia4 website spruiks a price of $121 for a bottle of 60 capsules. That’s $2 a pop.

Still, this is a significant breakthrough in keeping blood sugar levels in check. And researchers are already talking about the extract as having powers beyond diabetes control.

Dr Tups said the promise shown by the dahlia extract in helping to improve brain function suggests further applications. “We are now conducting a clinical trial in people with chronic fatigue syndrome or long COVID syndrome,” he said.

Thanks to the work of Dr Tups and his team, ‘flower power’ is back!

Are you a diabetes sufferer? How do you control your blood sugar levels? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Can you reverse prediabetes?

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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  1. Did you know that Harvard and Tufts Universities have done trials that showed that Pecans can control Blood Sugar, and may be the Magic Elixir that will be the cure for this troublesome, world wide condition. I buy mine from the Nut Grocer in Springvale a kilo a time. Quick and Easy with Aust Post but Don’t Use the Saudi Arabian Carrier. Good Health & Best Wishes.
    Robert Henry

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