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Traditional Chinese Herbs Found to Suppress Progression of Diabetes

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 28 Jan 2014
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Image: According to a new study, the ability of Tianqi, a Chinese herbal medicine, to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, is similar to that of diabetes drugs, metformin and acarbose (Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago).
Image: According to a new study, the ability of Tianqi, a Chinese herbal medicine, to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, is similar to that of diabetes drugs, metformin and acarbose (Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago).
Traditional Chinese herbal medicines have the potential for slowing the progression from prediabetes to a clinical diabetes diagnosis, according to new research.

An individual who has developed raised blood sugar levels is diagnosed with prediabetes, but glucose levels have not yet been elevated to the point of developing type 2 diabetes. Individuals who are prediabetic are faced with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as stroke and heart disease.

“With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases,” said one of the study’s authors, Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, from the University of Chicago (IL, USA). “Patients often struggle to make the necessary lifestyle changes to control blood sugar levels, and current medications have limitations and can have adverse gastrointestinal side effects. Traditional Chinese herbs may offer a new option for managing blood sugar levels, either alone or in combination with other treatments.”

During the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 389 participants at 11 research sites in China were randomly assigned to take either a capsule containing a combination of 10 Chinese herbal medicines or a placebo. Study participants, for the duration of one year, took capsules of either the Chinese herb mixture, called Tianqi, or the placebo three times per day before meals. All participants received one month of lifestyle education at the beginning of the trial and met with nutritionists several times during the study. Study participants’ glucose tolerance was measured on a quarterly basis.

At the end of the trial, 36 participants in the Tianqi group and 56 in the placebo group had developed diabetes. The analysis found taking Tianqi reduced the risk of diabetes by 32.1% compared with the placebo, after adjusting for age and gender. The overall reduction in risk was similar to that found in studies of diabetes medications acarbose and metformin, and study participants reported few side effects from the Tianqi herbs. Tianqi includes various herbs that have been shown to lower blood glucose levels and increase regulation of blood glucose levels after meals.

“Few controlled clinical trials have examined traditional Chinese medicine’s impact on diabetes, and the findings from our study showed this approach can be very useful in slowing the disease’s progression,” said one of the study’s lead authors, Xiaolin Tong, MD, PhD, from Guang’anmen Hospital (Beijing, China). “More research is needed to evaluate the role Chinese herbal medicine can play in preventing and controlling diabetes.”

The findings were published February 2014, in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Related Links:

University of Chicago
Guang’anmen Hospital

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