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3 Unusual Natural Substances for Type 2 Diabetes

Natural substances help type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may have heard a lot about different medications and some natural supplements, such as cinnamon and turmeric, as ways to help manage the disease. But there are some unusual natural substances for type 2 diabetes with which you may not be familiar, and that’s what is covered here.

Black seeds for type 2 diabetes
The pods of the Nigella sativa plant, also known as kalanji, are the source of black seeds. Supplements in the form of capsules, oils and powders have been made from these seeds for management of type 2 diabetes, as well as high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatism, and liver diseases.

For treatment of diabetes, there is limited evidence of the effectiveness of these seeds, which contain alkaloids and essential oils such as thymohydroquinone and thymoquinone. Here’s what has been documented thus far.

The newest research was published in September 2012 in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine. Scientists at the University of Dammam evaluated the impact of taking the black seeds at three different doses over a 12-week period.

Ninety-four patients with type 2 diabetes participated and were divided into three groups: 1, 2, or 3 grams daily of the supplement in capsule form. At the end of the study, the investigators found that taking 2 grams per day of the black seed resulted in a significant improvement in factors associated with type 2 diabetes; namely, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). No additional benefit beyond that seen in the 2-gram dose was seen in those who took 3 grams daily.

In 2009, a study was published on the impact of black seed extracts on glucose absorption and glucose tolerance in laboratory animals. The investigators reported that black seeds were effective in inhibiting the absorption of glucose as well as in improving glucose tolerance.

Yet another study published that same year found that black seed extracts reduced damage to the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin. Two years later, researchers reported that thymoquinone in black seeds have the ability to help prevent the development of type 1 diabetes as well as increase insulin sensitivity of liver cells, which helps prevent development of type 2 diabetes. The authors of this study also indicated that black seed extracts have important antioxidant activity and may safeguard pancreatic cells against free radical attack.

Not much research has been done on the safety and efficacy of black seeds on people who have type 2 diabetes. So far it’s been shown that high doses can cause kidney and liver damage in lab animals, but its effect on humans is not known.

Gum and type 2 diabetes
No, I’m not talking about chewing gum, but a type that comes from the acacia tree and is known as gondh or acacia gum. One reason why it may help individuals with type 2 diabetes is that acacia gum is a good source of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and assist with weight loss.

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Taking acacia gum as a supplement may help you feel fuller faster, which can result in less appetite and more weight loss. Since most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight, acacia gum may be helpful in management of this aspect of the disease.

In a new study (August 2013) published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, evaluated the antihyperglycemic (anti-low-blood-sugar) activity of Acacia tortilis polysaccharide taken from the gum. Testing in lab rats suggested that polysaccharide isolated from the gum “may be a potential drug for diabetes mellitus and its complications.”

Barley and type 2 diabetes

You may not consider barley to be an unusual supplement, but many people do not include it as part of their diet. Barley is a high-fiber grain, providing about 3 grams per ½ cup serving of pearl barley (cooked), and it is low on the glycemic scale.

People who consume a diet with the recommended amount of fiber (25-38 grams for women and men, respectively) may enjoy a 20 to 30 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Note that barley contains gluten, so people with gluten intolerance should avoid it.

In a recent (May 2013) issue of Nutrition Journal, researchers reported on the role of grains such as barley in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. They compared the ability of the body to assimilate the phytochemicals in various grains and looked at evidence that they reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in humans, two factors associated with type 2 diabetes.

They noted that “biomarkers of systemic inflammation tend to be reduced in people consuming high intakes of whole grains.” An earlier study in the Journal of Food Science reported that beta-glucan (BG) found in barley was beneficial in individuals with diabetes and that “fortification of a BG-rich cereal diet [like barley] with TP [tea polyphenols] could be used as a strategy to maintain health in diabetic subjects.”

The scientific evidence on all three of these supplements for use in managing type 2 diabetes is still incomplete. Before taking these or any other supplements for type 2 diabetes, be sure to consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Belobraidic DP, Bird AR. The potential role of phytochemicals in wholegrain cereals for the prevention of type-2 diabetes. Nutrition Journal 2013 May 16; 12:62
Bisht S et al. α-D-glucosidase inhibitory activity of polysaccharide isolated from Acacia tortilis gum exudate. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules 2013 Aug; 59: 214-20
Gao R et al. Interaction of barley β-glucan and tea polyphenols on glucose metabolism in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Journal of Food Science 2012 Jun; 77(6): H128-34
Kaatabi H et al. Favorable impact of Nigella sativa seeds on lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients. Journal of Family and Community Medicine 2012 Sep; 19(3): 155-61

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