The Medical Minute: Natural remedies for people with diabetes

June 2, 2010 by Chris Fan and Lorraine Mulfinger, Pennsylvania State University

(PhysOrg.com) -- Disease remedies using plant products fill the market, but most have not been tested well enough to be able to assure patients that they really work or that they are safe. Here is what is known about a few products that are often of interest to patients with diabetes.

Hydroxycut - There are numerous formulations of this product and many contain caffeine. The other reputed active ingredients include two plants: Garcinia cambogia and Gymnema sylvestre. Garcinia grows in Indonesia and regions of Africa, and a small number of studies have reported it useful in producing modest weight loss. A study in rats also showed lower levels after meals, but also signs of damage in the liver and testicles. In May 2009, the FDA issued a warning about this additive, and most Hydroxycut formulas now focus on Gymnema sylvestre. Interestingly Gymnema reduces the taste of sugar when it is placed in the mouth, so that some use it to fight sugar cravings.

Hoodia - Hoodia gordonii is a flowering plant that grows in desert regions of Africa. Its effectiveness for appetite suppression was documented as early as 1937, but a concerned Pfizer researcher wrote in the New York Times in 2005 “…although hoodia did appear to suppress appetite, there were indications of unwanted effects on the liver ...” Hoodia is believed to work by tricking the brain into believing it has enough sugar, thereby suppressing the urge to eat when blood sugar is low, which could be dangerous for .

Antioxidants - Many supplements are now being advertised for their beneficial “anti-oxidant” effects. Antioxidants help neutralize compounds that are more rapidly generated when blood sugar is high and that are involved in the development of heart and vascular disease. Numerous natural foods are high in antioxidants, These include , certain berries (including cranberries, and açai berry), most fruits and , and . One active antioxidant found in wine and chocolate is a compound called resveratrol. It is now available in pill form, though wine and chocolate are more enjoyable. Research has suggested that consuming antioxidant foods is associated with better health, but supplements have not been proven to be helpful.

Green tea and the açai berry also have been suggested helpful in weight loss. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. said, “There is no evidence what-so-ever to suggest that açai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions.”

What is the bottom line? Many “natural” remedies may be effective in making small improvements in health, but they often do not work for everyone and typically produce less than the advertised result. As a general rule, eating the natural product is natural, but taking concentrated extracts is not natural at all (think almonds vs. cyanide pills)! In fact little is known about possible side effects of “more," which certainly does not guarantee “better.” Caveat emptor—user beware.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.