Salacia a New and Old Remedy for Prediabetes
Ayurvedic medicine has long recognized the herbal remedy salacia for managing diabetes as well as other health conditions. Now a new study attempts to provide scientific evidence of its potential value for prediabetes.
What you should know about salacia
Salacia is a woody, climbing plant that grows mainly in southern India and Sri Lanka. It belongs to the Celastraceae family, and there are numerous species, one of which is Salacia reticulata.
The herb contains a number of natural chemicals believed to have medicinal value. They include the polyphenols (plant substances shown to have antioxidant and other benefits) kotalanol, mangiferin, and salacinol.
In the new six-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, investigators evaluated the safety and effectiveness of Salacia reticulata root bark and leaf extracts (500 mg) in 29 individuals who had prediabetes and mild to moderate hyperlipidemia. The control group was given a placebo and followed lifestyle therapy.
Prediabetes is when a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but have not reached the 126 mg/dL level, which is defined as full-blown diabetes. Normal fasting plasma glucose levels are defined as less than 100 mg/dL, while individuals with prediabetes have a level between 100 and 125 mg/dL.
Hyperlipidemia is basically defined as excessive levels of lipids (e.g., cholesterols, triglycerides, phospholipids) in the bloodstream. Among the risk factors for diabetes and prediabetes are low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and high triglycerides.
The investigators found the following:
- Individuals in both of the salacia groups experienced significant improvements in fasting blood sugar at week 6
- Individuals who took the root bark extract also had significant improvement in LDL cholesterol levels at week 3
- No adverse events were reported and both forms of the supplement were found to be safe
Why this study is important
Approximately 79 million Americans have prediabetes, and every year 5 to 10 percent of prediabetics cross the line to type 2 diabetes, which is already at epidemic proportions. Type 2 diabetes is associated with significant complications, including but not limited to neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy (and blindness), amputations, gum disease, stroke, and heart disease.
Therefore, efforts to avoid the transition from prediabetes to diabetes is highly desirable. Lifestyle modifications, including a nutritious diet, weight loss (most people with diabetes are overweight or obese), regular exercise, and stress management are highly recommended and can be successful at stopping the transition and even reversing type 2 diabetes.
However, a variety of natural supplements, such as curcumin, fenugreek, bitter melon, and cinnamon have been found to have some benefit for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Salacia may be counted among them.
According to WebMD, the phytochemicals in salacia seem to prevent the sugar in foods from being absorbed by the body. The authors of the latest study remarked that salacia appears to lower postprandial (after eating) sugar levels by inhibiting substances called alpha-glucosidases in the intestinal tract, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into absorbable monosaccharides.
Although no side effects were reported in the latest study, the herbal remedy reportedly may cause gas, nausea, belching, and diarrhea in some people. Salacia is both an old and new herbal remedy that shows promise for the management of prediabetes.
Shivaprasad HN et al. Salacia reticulate improves serum lipid profiles and glycemic control in patients with prediabetes and mild to moderate hyperlipidemia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Journal of Medicinal Food 2013 Jun; 16(6): 564-68