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Delicious discovery: Eating sea cucumbers can prevent diabetes

Sea cucumbers, a marine delicacy revered across Asia, could play a surprising role in diabetes prevention, new research from the University of South Australia suggests. This unassuming sea creature may harbor medicinal properties potent enough to reduce the risk of diabetes and its related complications.

The researchers delved into the beneficial properties of the species Holothuria scabra, commonly known as sea cucumbers. 

What the researchers learned

The findings? Dried sea cucumber, when processed with salt extracts, can inhibit the formation of a compound, known as Advanced Glycation End product (AGE), which is closely tied to an increased risk of diabetes.

To date, we lack a commercially available agent that can inhibit the creation of AGEs. This is where the sea cucumber’s potential comes into the picture.

The important role played by AGEs

AGEs are compounds that form when proteins and/or fats meet sugars in our bloodstream. When these compounds accumulate in high amounts, they escalate the complications associated with diabetes. This includes a spectrum of conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, and even cancer.

Dr. Permal Deo, the lead researcher from the University of South Australia, emphasized the importance of understanding the bioactive compounds in sea cucumbers and their ability to inhibit AGEs.

“An accumulation of AGEs is associated with complications of type 2 diabetes, so strategies to prevent this may reduce the risk of developing diabetic complications,” Dr. Deo explains. “Biologically active novel compounds in medicinal plants and foods are potential therapeutic agents to prevent diabetic complications.”

Dr. Deo and his team sought to explore the bioactive compounds in sea cucumbers as AGE inhibitors due to their known therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Very encouraging news in the fight against diabetes

The findings were indeed promising. The researchers discovered that processed dried sea cucumber with salt extracts and collagen can significantly inhibit AGEs. This is achieved by lowering a variety of sugar-related metabolites in the body, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes is a pervasive health problem in Australia, where almost 1.3 million people grapple with type 2 diabetes. Globally, the scale is even more staggering with about 422 million people diagnosed with diabetes and 1.5 million deaths directly attributed to the disease annually.

Importantly, it’s been found that almost 60 percent of all cases of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or even prevented with appropriate changes to diet and lifestyle.

“These results provide sound evidence that sea cucumbers could be developed as a functional food product to help battle the onset of diabetes and diabetic-complications,” Dr. Deo concludes. In a world increasingly in need of novel dietary interventions against diabetes, sea cucumbers might just offer a potent, yet unassuming, ally.

More about sea cucumbers

Sea cucumbers are fascinating marine creatures. They belong to a group of animals called echinoderms, which also includes sea stars and sea urchins.

Physical Characteristics

Sea cucumbers are named for their elongated, cylindrical body shape that is similar to a cucumber. They range in size from less than an inch to several feet long. Most are soft-bodied creatures, although a few species can have a leathery skin. They can be various colors, from sandy shades that blend in with their surroundings to more striking colors.


They are found in virtually all marine environments throughout the world, from warm coastal waters to deep-sea trenches. Some species live on the sea floor, while others prefer to burrow into the sand or mud.

Feeding Habit

Sea cucumbers are generally scavengers, feeding on debris in the benthic zone (the lowest level of a body of water). They ingest sand or sediment and extract any organic material for nourishment. This behavior also plays a role in cleaning the ocean floor.


Sea cucumbers reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most sea cucumbers reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into the water, where fertilization takes place. Some species are capable of asexual reproduction through a process called fission, where the animal splits in half and each part regenerates the missing half.

Defense Mechanisms

When threatened, some species of sea cucumbers discharge sticky threads to ensnare their enemies. Others can eject parts of their guts to entangle potential predators. Interestingly, the sea cucumber can regenerate these lost parts over time.

Ecological Role

Sea cucumbers play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem. They help recycle nutrients and break down detritus. Additionally, their feeding process helps aerate the sea floor.

Human Use

Sea cucumbers are harvested around the world for food, especially in Asian cultures, where they are considered a delicacy. They are also used in traditional medicine in some cultures. More recently, researchers have been investigating their potential therapeutic properties, such as the possible role they could play in preventing diseases like diabetes.


Overfishing and habitat destruction pose a threat to sea cucumber populations in many parts of the world. Regulations have been put in place in some regions to manage sea cucumber fisheries and protect these important creatures.

Unique Characteristics

Sea cucumbers have a unique respiratory system. They breathe through a respiratory tree that is connected to their anus. Water flows in and out of the anus to facilitate gas exchange.


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