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author: Dr. Kevin Curran
White mulberry was first cultivated in China 4,000 years ago. Originally, this plant was used as a food source for silkworms.
The Chinese have been producing silk for thousands of years. And they know that you need healthy silkworms if you want to produce strong silk fibers. White mulberry is the preferred food for silkworms. So, to keep their silk industry moving, the Chinese grew lots of white mulberry trees and fed the leaves to their silkworms.
In the 12th century, as trade routes opened up between Asia and Europe, the Western world became interested in the beautiful silk clothing produced in China. Seeds and cuttings of the white mulberry tree were carried across the globe in an attempt to spread silkworms and silk production into new countries. Silk, silkworms and white mulberry trees soon established in Japan, Korea, India and eventually in some Western nations.
As white mulberry fruit spread throughout the world, a global awareness of the plant’s health benefits also took root.
White mulberry health benefits
White mulberry delivers many health benefits, however the plant’s ability to lower blood sugar has attracted the most attention. (Butt, 2008; Chung, 2013; Kimura, 2007; Mahmoud, 2014; Miyahara, 2004; Singab, 2005)
Multiple health problems that arise when our body processes too much sugar. These problems include obesity, diabetes and chronic inflammation. If a natural remedy can eliminate the excess sugar in our bloodstream, then that is certainly good news.
Recent studies have shown that eating an extract of white mulberry does in fact help the body process sugar. (Chung, 2013; Mahmoud, 2014; Kimura, 2007)
There are chemical compounds in the white mulberry plant that prevent big spikes of sugar in our bloodstream after we eat a meal. One compound in particular, DNJ (see below), has the ability to eliminate excess sugar from our blood. This is good news for all people concerned with blood-sugar levels and obesity, but it is especially helpful for those suffering from diabetes.
Clinical study reveals how to lower sugar levels with white mulberry extract.
Scientists demonstrate that a specific chemical found in white mulberry prevents a spike of blood sugar levels after we eat a meal . The name of this chemical is Mulberry 1-deoxynojirimycin, also known as DNJ. DNJ is a powerful glucosidase inhibitor. This is a biochemical term that means DNJ can shut down sugar processing.
In this experiment, healthy volunteers were fed varying amounts of DNJ powder followed by a meal of 50 grams of sugar (sucrose). The scientists then collected insulin and blood sugar levels from the patients at 30 and 180 minute time periods after the meal. (Kimura, 2007)
The patients who took about 1 gram of DNJ with their meal (0.8-1.2 grams) experienced significantly lower blood sugar levels and lower insulin levels.
The authors conclude that DNJ, the active ingredient in white mulberry, can be used as a dietary supplement for lowering blood-sugar levels and preventing diabetes mellitus. (Kimura 2007)
Background on blood-sugar levels, obesity and diabetes
Before I continue, let me take a moment and explain why high blood-sugar levels are such a threat to human health.
DISCLAIMER Sugar digestion is a complicated biological process. For the sake of this review, I’m only offering a brief, simplified summary.
How the human body processes sugar
After we eat food, the sugar in the food passes through our stomach, into our intestines and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Sugar then travels through the bloodstream and eventually arrives at our liver. The liver has many jobs, one of them is to help control our blood-sugar levels. We want some sugar in our blood because that provides us with energy but excessively high blood-sugar levels are bad. If blood-sugar levels are high, the liver will convert the excess glucose (sugar) into glycogen (a stored sugar). If we are storing too much sugar, then eventually this stored sugar will turn into fat. This conversion to fat is what makes our belly, hips and thighs become big (i.e. become obese).
Nobody wants that to happen.
How eating too much sugar can cause diabetes
But wait, it gets worse, high blood-sugar levels don’t just lead to obesity, high blood-sugar can also lead to diabetes. Here’s how that happens…
The signal to convert glucose into glycogen is controlled by insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone that is produced by our pancreas. If we have high amounts of sugar in our diet, the pancreas will do its best to keep up. The pancreas will keep producing insulin and the insulin will keep telling the liver to store the sugar and remove it from our blood. However, at some point, if blood-sugar levels are persistently high, the pancreas can no longer keep up. In a sense, the pancreas becomes overworked and collapses. This is the scenario that often leads to the onset of diabetes.
In general, diabetes is caused by either the inability of our pancreas to produce enough insulin or our body’s inability to process the insulin properly. Type 2 Diabetes (90% of all diabetes cases) is characterized by impaired cellular response to insulin. This impaired insulin response is often followed by the progressive dysfunction (collapse) of the pancreas (Tao, 2015). In summary, there is a close relationship between elevated blood-sugar levels and the onset of diabetes.
The current state of diabetes in the world
Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a rising trend of diabetes worldwide (Florencia, 2014). As of 2014, the global estimate for people suffering from diabetes was 387 million, this is approximately 8% of the world population. In 2014, this elevated level of diabetes translated into a global healthcare cost of $612 billion. What is more concerning is that the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035 .
Clearly, this a major health problem. Because diabetes has become so common in the world, we are now seeing a rising interest in white mulberry and its ability to naturally lower sugar levels in our bloodstream.
White mulberry benefits people with high cholesterol
In addition to its role in blood-sugar levels, white mulberry has also been explored as a natural therapy for high cholesterol. As most of us are now aware, there is a strong connection between high cholesterol levels and heart disease (Castelli, 1986; Downs, 1998). The best way to manage your cholesterol levels is by exercising, controlling your diet and medications. Unfortunately, traditional cholesterol drugs are often costly or create negative side effects. For this reason, there’s a strong demand for more natural, food based treatments for cholesterol management.
Multiple clinical studies have demonstrated that eating white mulberry lowers cholesterol levels in human patients (Aramwit, 2011; Andallu, 2001). Two separate reports found that white mulberry lowered LDL (the ‘bad cholesterol’) while raising HDL (the ‘good cholesterol’). Aramwit et al, applied white mulberry leaf therapy on 26 human patients with high cholesterol (age range 20-60 years old). The study found that white mulberry leaf tablets could reduce overall cholesterol levels while enhancing healthy HDL levels. Similar positive results were observed by a separate research group (Andalla, 2001).
Factors to consider when purchasing white mulberry tea, leaf or dried fruits.
There are 3 ways to consume white mulberry. You can either eat the dried fruit, take a white mulberry capsule or drink white mulberry tea.
These are all reasonable options, it’s a matter of preference.
The dried fruits are a little bit sweet. The taste is described as somewhere between a fig and a raisin. You eat the dried fruits before a meal or snack on them as a healthy way to satisfy your appetite.
Additional mulberry fruit benefits
In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, when you eat this super-food, you also get a dose of protein and fiber.
1/3 of a cup of dried mulberry fruit contains:
- 4 grams of protein
- 20% of your daily fiber.
This plant is packed full of micro-nutrients. This is just a partial list of the vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients in white mulberry.
- flavonoid antioxidants (anthocyanins, zea-xanthin, resveratrol)
- vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, B-complex)
- minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese)
In summary, here are the top 5 health benefits of white mulberry:
- high in fiber
- high in protein
- high in micro-nutrients
- helps manage cholesterol
- helps regulate blood-sugar levels
Remember to bookmark this page! We will keep updating this article with the latest health reports and new clinical results regarding the benefits of white mulberry leaf and fruit. Below we mention some respected brands of this nutritious plant.
Aguiree, Florencia, et al. “IDF diabetes atlas.” (2014).
Andallu, Bondada, et al. “Effect of mulberry (Morus indica L.) therapy on plasma and erythrocyte membrane lipids in patients with type 2 diabetes.” Clinica Chimica Acta 314.1 (2001): 47-53.
Aramwit, Pornanong, Kanokwan Petcharat, and Ouppatham Supasyndh. “Efficacy of mulberry leaf tablets in patients with mild dyslipidemia.” Phytotherapy Research 25.3 (2011): 365-369.
Butt, Masood Sadiq, et al. “Morus alba L. nature’s functional tonic.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 19.10 (2008): 505-512.
Chung, HI, et al. “Acute intake of mulberry leaf aqueous extract affects postprandial glucose response after maltose loading: Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study.” Journal of Functional Foods, 5 (2013), pp. 1502–1506.
Castelli, William P., et al. “Incidence of coronary heart disease and lipoprotein cholesterol levels: the Framingham Study.” Jama 256.20 (1986): 2835-2838.
Downs, John R., et al. “Primary prevention of acute coronary events with lovastatin in men and women with average cholesterol levels: results of AFCAPS/TexCAPS.” Jama 279.20 (1998): 1615-1622.
Kimura, Toshiyuki, et al. “Food-grade white mulberry leaf powder enriched with 1-deoxynojirimycin suppresses the elevation of postprandial blood glucose in humans.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 55.14 (2007): 5869-5874.
Mahmoud, Hemdan Ibrahem, et al. “Hypoglycemic effect of white (Morus alba L.) and black (Morus nigra L.) white mulberry benefits in diabetic rat; foods that lower blood sugar naturally.” European Journal of Chemistry 5.1 (2014): 65-72.
Miyahara, Chieko, et al. “Inhibitory effects of mulberry leaf extract on postprandial hyperglycemia in normal rats.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 50.3 (2004): 161-164.
Singab, Abdel Nasser B., et al. “Hypoglycemic effect of Egyptian Morus alba root bark extract: effect on diabetes and lipid peroxidation of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 100.3 (2005): 333-338.
Tao, Ziqi, Aimin Shi, and Jing Zhao. “How to lower sugar levels: Epidemiological Perspectives of Diabetes.” Cell biochemistry and biophysics (2015): 1-5.