January 17, 2014
Traditional Chinese Medicine May Stall Onset Of Diabetes
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, and a new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has found that a mixture of 10 Chinese herbal medicines called Tianqi may help stall the progression from a pre-diabetes condition to a formal diabetes diagnosis.
Patients are considered to have pre-diabetes when they develop elevated blood sugar levels, but not to the point of those with type-2 diabetes. Those with pre-diabetes face an elevated risk of developing full-blown type-2 diabetes, in addition to heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 79 million American adults age 20 years or older could be considered pre-diabetic.
"With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases," said study authors Dr. Chun-Su Yuan, a recognized expert of herbal medicine at the University of Chicago. "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."
In the study, nearly 390 volunteers at 11 research sites in China were randomly assigned to take either a capsule containing Tianqi or a placebo three times a day before meals for an entire year. All participants received healthy lifestyle instruction at the start of the trial and met intermittently with nutritionists. Researchers measured participants’ glucose tolerance on a quarterly basis.
After the year-long trial, 36 participants in the Tianqi group and 56 in the placebo group had developed type-2 diabetes. The study team found that the herbal medicine cut the risk of diabetes by over 32 percent compared to a placebo, after considering participants’ age and gender.
The team noted that risk reduction seen for Tianqi was as good as that seen in studies of the diabetes medications acarbose and metformin. Tianqi does include herbs that have been found to cut blood glucose levels and boost control 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 study author Dr. Xiaolin Tong, from Guang'anmen Hospital in Beijing. "More research is needed to evaluate the role Chinese herbal medicine can play in preventing and controlling diabetes."
Another study on traditional Chinese medicine published earlier this month in the journal Current Biology found that a chemical compound in the Corydalis plant can ease pain in mice. A chemical analysis performed by study researchers revealed a chemical in the plant - DHCB - was an effective pain reliever in the laboratory rodents.
"This medicine goes back thousands of years, and it is still around because it works," Olivier Civelli, a study author and pharmacologist at the University of California, Irvine told the Los Angeles Times. "The question is, what makes it work. There are many compounds inside this plant."