Duckweed 'superfood' shows promise for blood sugar, appetite control

Mankai duckweed, a type of highly sustainable aquatic plant produced in a number of countries, may be a new superfood offering profound effects on blood sugar and appetite control, according to a new study. A team of researchers with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev studied the aquatic plant's effect on blood sugar, building upon past work that indicates mankai is a powerful 'superfood.'

Duckweed (Lemnoideae), which is also known as water lenses, is a simple leafy green aquatic plant that floats on the surface of bodies of water where it grows. The plant has been a common food product in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years, offering consumers high levels of protein and nutrients at a low price.

The mankai variety of duckweed is produced in enclosed environments primarily in Israel, where its nutritional profile and possible health benefits have been heavily studied. According to the university behind this latest study, duckweed contains the same protein profile as eggs, offering six conditional amino acids and another nine essential amino acids.

In addition, the mankai plant contains large quantities of flavonoids, catechins, phenolic acids, minerals, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B complex, and dietary fiber. Among other things, researchers have called mankai unique for its B12 content; in light of that and the plant's high protein, duckweed may very well be considered a type of 'superfood.'

The latest study out of BGU, one led by PhD student and registered dietician Hila Zelicha, found that participants who consumed a mankai shake for two weeks had improved fasting blood sugar levels, lower peak blood sugar levels, a later peak time, and faster evacuation of the glucose compared to participants who drank an equivalent yogurt shake.

In addition, the study found that participants who drank the mankai shakes reported feeling more full than participants who drank yogurt shakes. The findings were recently published in the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Care journal.