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Herbal Pills As Effective As Diabetes Medicine In Preventing Diabetes

Update Date: Jan 16, 2014 07:52 PM EST

Traditional Chinese herbal medicine may be just as effective as western medicine in preventing diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers found that consuming herbal medicines can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 32 percent in people with prediabetes.

People with prediatbetes have elevated blood sugar levels. However, their glucose levels have not yet increased to the point of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers said that people with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

"With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases," study author Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, said in a news release. "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."

The latest study involved 389 participants in China who were randomly assigned to take either a pill containing a mixture of 10 Chinese herbal medicines or a placebo. Participants were asked to take the pills three times a day before meals for a year.

Study result revealed that 36 participants in the traditional medicine group and 56 in the placebo group had developed diabetes.

The findings showed that taking the herbal pill reduced the risk of diabetes by 32.1 percent compared with the placebo. Researchers added that the overall reduction in risk of Chinese traditional medicine was comparable to that of diabetes medications acarbose and metformin. Furthermore, participants taking the herbal pill reported fewer side effects than those who took diabetes medications.

"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," researcher Xiaolin Tong, MD, PhD, of Guang'anmen Hospital in Beijing, China, said in a news release. "More research is needed to evaluate the role Chinese herbal medicine can play in preventing and controlling diabetes."

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

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