High-Protein Plant Found to Reduce Lower Glucose Peak Levels

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By : dLife Editors

A unique, high-protein aquatic plant called Mankai maybe the next superfood in the health world.

The plant, a strain of duckweed, was found to provide glycemic control after carbohydrate consumption, according to new research.

In the study, Mankai duckweed had shown a beneficial glycemic effect as compared to iso-carb yogurt shake among abdominally obese participants in a pre-diabetes state.

“We already had preliminary findings from humans and animals that this plant exerts glycemic benefits,” Hila Zelicha, R.D., a Ph.D. student at Ben-Gurion University and lead author of the study tells dLife. “Therefore, we may consider Mankai to serve as a diabetes-friendly protein alternative source for people in a pre-diabetes state.”

For Type 2 diabetes, Zelicha acknowledges that further research on the effects of Mankai to blood sugar levels is still required.


Mankai, a new high-protein aquatic plant strain of duckweed. Photo credit: Ben-Gurion University.

How was the Study Conducted?

The team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Isreal conducted a randomized, controlled crossover trial.

They recruited 20 abdominally obese participants from the Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial. Participants had a mean age of 51.4 years, and fasting plasma glucose 110.9 mg/dL.

The participants who were allocated to replace dinner with either, first, a green shake containing Mankai duckweed or an iso-carbohydrate/protein/calorie yogurt shake.

A 2-week flash glucose-monitoring system was used to assess postmeal glucose dynamics (6 net administration days; 97 observation days in total).

Researchers monitored dietary/daily activity/satiety scale/sleep logs for each participant.

After two weeks of monitoring, participants who drank the duckweed shake showed a much better response in a variety of measurements including lower glucose peak levels; morning fasting glucose levels; later peak time; and faster glucose evacuation.

“Although we randomized only 20 participants, our relatively small sample size provided sufficient statistical power to detect a significant difference between duckweed Mankai and yogurt shakes over nearly 100 repeated days of observations in a crossover design,” says Zelicha.

She explains that the participants that consumed the shakes as a dinner substitute were required to rate their satisfaction in a daily log.

“Apparently, the Mankai shake [group] resulted in a higher satiety rate as compared to the yogurt shake,” she states.

Where is the Plant Found?

The Mankai duckweed aquatic plant is being grown in Israel and other countries in a closed environment.

The plant is highly environmentally sustainable – requiring a fraction of the amount of water to produce each gram of protein compared to soy, kale or spinach.

It can also be grown year-round using hydroponic cultivation, which is another advantage, according to the researchers.

More on Duckweed

Duckweed has been consumed for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia, where it is known as “vegetable meatball” due to its high-protein content — more than 45% of the dry matter.

It includes the complete protein profile of eggs, containing all nine essential and six conditional amino acids.

In addition, Mankai is very rich in polyphenols, mainly phenolic acids and flavonoids (including catechins), dietary fibers, minerals (including iron and zinc), vitamin A, vitamin B complex, and vitamin B12, which is rarely produced by plants.

Previous research on duckweed study by Dr. Alon Kaplan showed that the absorption of the essential amino acids from Mankai was similar to the soft cheese and plant (peas) equivalent in protein content, reinforcing its role as a high-quality protein source.

The studies suggested that Mankai is a unique plant source of vitamin B12.

Another study by Ph.D. student Anat Yaskolka Meir, R.D., indicates that a Mediterranean diet with Mankai, elevates iron and folic acid levels, despite low quantities of red meat.

This study also determined that iron from Mankai was efficient in treating iron-deficiency anemia in anemic rats to the same degree as the common treatment.

Researchers believe duckweed may serve as a new alternative plant protein source with potential beneficial postprandial glycemic effects.

Mankai smoothies were introduced in the Harvard School of Public Health cafeteria recently.

The research has been published in Diabetes Care, the official journal of the American Diabetes Association.


  1. American Associates, Ben-Gurion University Of The Negev. (2019, August 6). Mankai duckweed plant found to offer health benefits. EurekAlert! Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/aabu-mdp080519.php