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Herb used to treat diabetes works like modern-day prescription drugs, study suggests

COLUMBUS, Ohio An herb used in traditional Indian medicine to treat diabetes seems to lower blood sugar and insulin levels in a manner similar to prescription drugs, a new study reports.

Researchers gave extracts of the herb Salacia oblonga to 39 healthy adults, and the results were promising. The largest dose of the herb extract 1,000 milligrams decreased insulin and blood glucose levels by 29 and 23 percent, respectively.

"These kinds of reductions are similar to what we might see with prescription oral medications for people with diabetes," said Steve Hertzler, a study co-author and an assistant professor of nutrition at Ohio State University.

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.

"Lowering blood glucose levels lowers the risk of disease-related complications in people with diabetes," Hertzler said. "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."

The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Thirty-nine healthy adults participated in four separate meal tolerance tests. These meals, which were given in beverage form, were spaced three to 14 days apart. Each participant fasted for at least 10 hours before consuming the test beverage.

Participants were asked to drink about two cups' worth of the chilled beverage, which contained zero, 500, 700 or 1,000 milligrams of Salacia oblonga extract. Afterward, the research
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Contact: Steve Hertzler
Hertzler.4@osu.edu
614-292-5575
Ohio State University
14-Feb-2005


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