Diabetes can be broken down into different forms, but it is the second type that afflicts 90 percent of diabetics. The toll of the disease is rising faster than forecasters had anticipated, with exponential growth expected in coming years. Because it is inextricably linked to obesity, maintaining a healthy weight is deemed the most effective preventive measure. One edible plant, however, may also help by significantly lowering blood sugar levels after intake.
Diabetes occurs when the body becomes desensitised to insulin, or production of the hormone ceases.
In either case, the overarching characteristic of the condition is high blood sugar levels.
Commonly used treatments for diabetes can generally be split into three categories – carbohydrates absorption inhibitors, insulin sensitisers and hypoglycaemic agents.
The primary objective of diabetes treatment is to maintain blood sugar levels within a safe range, and some natural ingredients are able to deliver these effects.
Gymnema Sylvestre, for example, is an insulin sensitiser that has been studied in patients with diabetes.
The plant is a woody shrub that is native to India, and has been used in the nation’s medicinal practises for thousands of years.
The remedy is traditionally used to treat malaria and snakebites, but it has recently been recognised for its anti-diabetic qualities.
Studies show Gymnema lowers the amount of sugar that gets absorbed into the intestines, which helps improve blood glucose levels.
One study that bears out these claims studied the effects of Gymnema extract on a sample of 22 patients, yielded positive results.
The study authors wrote: “Five of the 22 diabetic patients were able to discontinue their conventional drug and maintain their blood glucose homeostasis with GS4 alone.”
Findings revealed that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 400 mg of Gymnema leaf extract daily for 18 to 20 months, experienced a 29 percent drop in fasting blood sugar.
What’s more, levels of A1C – a haemoglobin chemically linked to sugar – decreased from 11.9 percent at the outset of the study, to 8.48 percent.
The potential explanations for these effects are wide-ranging.
But research shows the vine contains a compound called gymnemic acid, which suppressed the taste of sugar.
This is thought to be useful in the treatment of diabetes because it hampers cravings.
Verywell Health explains: “Gymnema Sylvestre is said to lower sugar cravings while reducing the rate at which sugar and fat are absorbed into the body.
“This two-fold action may help treat obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.”
The plant’s taste-altering properties have been attributed to the shrub’s active compound, gymnemic acid, which is able to suppress sweet tastes without affecting the perception of other tastes.
These effects kick in within 30 seconds, and last up to half an hour.