Researchers say a traditional Indian medicine, Salacia oblonga for treating diabetes lowers blood sugar and insulin levels in a way similar to prescription drugs. Researchers at Ohio State University gave extracts of the herb Salacia oblonga to 39 healthy adults who had fasted for 10 hours. The study participants were given different levels of the herb, which was served as a chilled beverage.
The largest dose decreased insulin levels by 29 percent and glucose levels by 23 percent. Intestinal enzymes normally bond to carbohydrates and turn them to glucose, the sugar that circulates throughout the body. If the enzymes bond to Salacia oblonga instead, they produce less glucose, lowering blood glucose and insulin levels.
Salacia oblonga, which is native to regions of India and Sri Lanka, binds to intestinal enzymes that break down carbohydrates in the body. These enzymes, called alpha-glucosidases, turn carbohydrates into glucose, the sugar that circulates throughout the body. If the enzyme binds to the herbal extract rather than to a carbohydrate, then less glucose gets into the blood stream, resulting in lowered blood glucose and insulin levels.
While the test beverages containing Salacia oblonga caused an increase in breath hydrogen excretion, reports of gastrointestinal discomfort were minimal, Hertzler said.
Right now he and his colleagues are trying to figure out what dose of the herb is most effective, and when it should be taken relative to a meal.
"We want to know how long it takes for the herb to bind to the enzymes that break down carbohydrates," Hertzler said. "The participants in this study took the herb with their meal, but maybe taking it before eating would be even more effective."
"Lowering blood glucose levels lowers the risk of disease-related complications in people with diabetes," wrote Steve Hertzler, co-author of the study. "Also, poor compliance with diabetes medications often hinders the effectiveness of these drugs. It may be easier to get someone to take an herb with food or in a beverage, as opposed to a pill."
Salacia oblonga is native to regions in India and Sri Lanka but is difficult to find in America. This study was supported by the Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories in Columbus.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Feb 2005
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DID YOU KNOW:
The total Israeli national medical cost of diabetic patients in 2001 was $564 million or 12.4% of the total Israeli HMO budget. This represents an increase of 29% from only 2 years earlier.
Eur J Health Econ