One group of scientists from the University of California believe they have found such a foodstuff in the form of the lesser-known herb Rhodiola rosea plant.
Native to the UK, the Rhodiola rosea is described by Gardener’s World as being “used in medicine to increase stamina and tolerance of cold, and is reputed to have healing properties for the skin”.
Fast forward to today and researchers have found Rhodiola rosea could be used to manage blood sugar levels.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that rhodiola rosea lowered fasting blood sugar levels and improved response to insulin injections in mouse models.
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Speaking about the research author Dr Mahtab Jafari said: “The prevalence of type 2 diabetes and the associated health costs have risen steadily in recent decades.
“Humans have used plants and natural products for thousands of years to treat diseases, and our study shows Rhodiola rosea is a good candidate for further investigation.”
The hope of the researchers is that Rhodiola rosea could be used as an alternative to some current treatments which, Jafari added, “have significant limitations or side effects, increasing the need for new therapeutic interventions”.
Current treatments for type two diabetes include lifestyle changes and insulin injections in order to control blood sugar levels.
Speaking about the impact of Rhodiola rosea, Dr Jafari added: “Our findings suggest that Rhodiola rosea might be beneficial for treating type 2 diabetes, acting through changes in the microbiome that result in increased gut barrier integrity and decreased translocation of inflammatory molecules into the blood circulation.
“Gut barrier integrity influences body weight and insulin response, and this botanical product may improve the responses of liver and muscle tissues to insulin produced by the pancreas.”
As a result, Rhodiola rosea could have health benefits which extend beyond control of blood sugar levels to other areas of the body.
Subsequently, further research is required into the plant so that potential new treatments can be developed to help the growing number of people with diabetes.
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Is the number of people with diabetes rising?
Yes. Figures of new diabetes patients have risen since 2006; there are now around five million people in the UK living with a form of the condition.
How great is the impact of a diabetes diagnosis?
The impact can be significant as it requires a complete change in lifestyle and makes consumption of food much more complex as the wrong dish can send blood sugar levels plummeting or skyward.
If blood sugar levels rise too high this can cause a condition known as hyperglycaemia; one which requires the administration of diabetes medication and improved lifestyle habits.
While serious, it is far more dangerous if someone’s blood sugar levels fall too low; this can cause something known as a hypo.
What is a hypo?
A hypo is a colloquialism used to describe hypoglycaemia. If this occurs and isn’t treated quickly, it can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
Early symptoms of a hypo to look out for include:
• Feeling tired
• Feeling hungry
• Tingling lips
• Feeling shaky and trembling
• Heart palpitations
• Becoming easily irritated, anxious, mood, or tearful
• Turning pale.
Although a serious event, hypos can be easily treated in their early stages through the consumption of a sugar snack or drink.
If a hypo is discovered in its later stages, and the person has become unconscious, NHS guidance recommends the person be put in the recovery position with their mouth clear of food or other material to prevent choking.