Published on 31 March 2021

Researchers believe the extract could improve insulin resistance by up to 22%.

A recent study by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, has found that taking a blackcurrant extract could provide effective, simple health management to help dramatically reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The blackcurrant extract from New Zealand is believed to improve insulin resistance by 22% and tackle obesity.

The study findings suggested that the potent polyphenol group of compounds, anthocyanins, found in New Zealand blackcurrants could be used to prevent developing type 2 diabetes as well as the associated health risks of pre-diabetes.

Researchers said that short-term, but not acute, intake of the New Zealand blackcurrant extract in capsule form (CurraNZ) could improve insulin sensitivity (how responsive your cells are to insulin).

The results were recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition on the effect of repeated daily intake of New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins on metabolic responses in sedentary obese and overweight individuals under ‘free living’ conditions.

Dr Sam Shepherd, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Nutrition, who led the study, said: “These latest research findings are really exciting, with the potential of New Zealand blackcurrant extract to have an even greater effect in unhealthy people and those with type 2 diabetes."

Dr Shepherd, a researcher previously funded by DRWF, added: “We know that exercise and specific diets can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and CurraNZ provides another approach. The big difference is its implementation, as unlike exercise and diet, taking two blackcurrant capsules a day doesn’t require a lot of effort from the user.”

People with type 2 diabetes are often prescribed the drug metformin, which lowers blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity. However, there is some research that medicines such as metformin can strip the body of vital nutrients like vitamin D.

Taking blackcurrant extract could offer people with type 2 diabetes a number of health benefits

Scientists involved in this latest study believed there was emerging evidence that potentially medication could be reduced for people with type 2 diabetes if consuming the blackcurrant extract as well, together with lifestyle changes. However, they noted that more research was needed and people should not stop taking their medication.

Dr Gill Jenkins, who is a GP in addition to living with type 2 diabetes, said: “The results of this study are very interesting and encouraging. This type of research is the first of its kind and is welcome news in the management of type 2 diabetes. 

“A change in diet and lifestyle is sometimes a long process with many bumps and hurdles along the way, but if this New Zealand blackcurrant extract can also be used as an adjutant in the journey and as a strategy to help reduce insulin resistance then it is a very exciting prospect.”

Mike Wakeman, Clinical Pharmacist, author, and ingredient formulating scientist added: “Type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, at a cost of £6 billion a year to the NHS. The need to find effective strategies has never been more urgent. It is vital we consider all elements that can help people protect themselves against developing diabetes, especially those people who are overweight or obese and pre-disposed to the disease. Good lifestyle factors such as regular exercise and healthy eating is no doubt crucial, but this research about New Zealand blackcurrant extract is also the type of simple self-care steps people can take.

“Recent studies have shown that this clever New Zealand blackcurrant extract has unprecedented fat burning effects during activity, while increasing blood flow up to 30% and makes exercising easier by lowering blood pressure – actions that would also prevent and support people with type 2 diabetes. As a result, taking the New Zealand Blackcurrant extract is a no brainer in my eyes.”

Dr Shepherd added: “The additional benefits for fat oxidation and blood flow are all linked to an improvement in insulin sensitivity.

“We’re now starting to build a picture of how New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanin extract is working to improve health. We’ve demonstrated it can improve whole body insulin sensitivity and further studies will look at whether it’s related to improved fat oxidation, or blood flow, or something else. For now, what we do know is that the New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanin extract, is great news for helping to cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as heart health matters.”

Read the report in European Journal of Nutrition

Call to action - How you can support DRWF during this time

Sarah Tutton, Chief Executive of DRWF, said: “Research is the only way to find new treatments and a cure for diabetes. We have multi-year grant awards in place right now which we must do our utmost to honour and we must be able to react to ongoing applications that we receive for research work that could truly make a difference to the lives of people with diabetes. 

“We exist on voluntary donations and fundraised income and like most charities, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our ability to raise the funds we need. We expect the months ahead will be just as challenging, and sadly this may have an impact on our ability to fund the volume and value of research work that could fuel the next big breakthrough.

“Charities need us, as we need them, more than ever before. Our supporters enable us to keep our research funding on track meaning that the diabetes research community has funds available to find the cure that could transform the lives of millions. We can’t thank our supporters enough for their continued support during these challenging times.”

Read Lockdown guidance for staying home and safe for people living with diabetes during Covid-19 pandemic
Read How people with diabetes could become more ill if diagnosed with Covid-19
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The DRWF team is working remotely. Covid-19 guidance, particularly where it aligns or impacts with diabetes guidance, is shared as quickly as possible through the DRWF website and social media channels with the aim of making it as easy to understand as possible and a reliable source of latest news.

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