With Elderberry’s Promise in Improving Bone Density, Diabetics Have One Less Risk to Worry About

By Carl Thompson

There are some 29 million people with diabetes in the U.S. Managing the disease is a perpetual balancing act that often includes eating right, monitoring blood sugar levels, and learning how to inject — or ingest — just the right amount of insulin. Diabetes can also cause a number of long-term health complications, including blindness and amputations. But there’s another, lesser-known risk to consider as well:osteoporosis. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk for decreased bone density, which, in some cases, can lead to osteoporosis. But now studies show that doses of concentrated elderberry extract may offer relief.

Dark, nearly black European elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are rich in pigments, or anthocyanins, that also act as antioxidants.  A recent study found that these substances were able to prevent a loss of bone density in rats — who experience a similar loss of bone density due to diabetes as humans do. But when the study’s animal subjects were given doses of concentrated elderberry extract, they showed promising improvements in bone density.

The connection between bone density and diabetes involves the cells that create new bone as part of the normal process of bone regeneration. As a result of the diabetic’s malfunctioning insulin production system, the insulin receptors contained in these cells receive the wrong signals, and bone regeneration is affected. Within five to seven years after the onset of diabetes, the bones may lose some of their density. They lose minerals, becoming weaker and more porous. The condition can degenerate into full-blown osteoporosis, with its increased risk of fractures.             

The rats that were part of the recent study showed that bone density increased to different parts of the body in different degrees. The spine, which can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of osteoporosis, showed the most improvement. But there were other health benefits as well: including a loss of body fat ranging from seven to 11 percent. The role anti-oxidants play in assisting the body includes fighting harmful oxygen free radicals, dangerous molecules that can accelerate the aging process and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer anddegenerative diseases of the nervous system.

Elderberry extract is not the only source for these remarkable substances. Anthocyanins are found in a range of dark berries, including blackcurrants, aronia berries, and the darkly colored, compact Nerina strawberry.  But the European black elderberry is among the richest sources for these antioxidants. Moreover, it has long been used as a traditional ingredient to help manage diabetes.

Standardized fruit extracts can now be made using the most polyphenol-rich varieties of elderberries. And new filtration processes  — such as the non-chemical membrane extraction method that is unique to Iprona AG, an Italian company — optimize concentration without compromising nutrition. As the fruit is forced through a series of membranes of varying densities, the full matrix of molecular chains are left intact, along with their synergistic power. Such modern methods give even more promise to this very traditional healing ingredient. With its distilled potency, membrane-enriched elderberry extract may well be a diabetic’s natural ally; a safe and effective complement to the drugs used to manage the disease.

Carl Thompson has been a freelance health and medical journalist for more than three decades. He specializes in natural alternatives to the synthetic products of the pharmaceutical industry, and is a research writer for IPRONA, an Italian company that produces standardized berry extracts for healthier nutrition. His work has appeared widely in both consumer and professional health trade publications internationally. His most recent book is “Inflammation: A Closer Look at What Drug Companies Do Not Want You to Know,” about a drug-free approach to managing arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. Follow him on twitter at @theberryroom.