Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer: Radiofrequency Ablation of Advanced Pancreatic Cancer (Stage III and Stage IV at Diagnosis)

If you are a follower of American television's 60 Minutes, several years ago you may have seen an interview done by Leslie Stahl of a man named John Kanzius, who actually found a way to kill cancer cells while experimenting with his wife's pie pans and hot dogs.

A retired radio and television executive, Kanzius retired only to be diagnosed with terminal leukemia. He underwent 36 rounds of chemotherapy at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, only to be sent home. But especially after seeing the forlorn expressions of children with leukemia, Kanzius was not ready to give up.

The retired radio executive had built radios as a child. He reasoned that since radio waves pass through the body harmless until a receiver stops them and converts them into energy, maybe if cancer cells could be turned into receivers, then radio waves could be used to kill them without harming other tissues.

The bottom line of the story of the Kanzius machine is that it seemed to work, and it worked well enough it's now under development at a university laboratory. Kanzius himself, however, died of pneumonia in 2008.

That's not the end of the story, however.

Radiofrequency ablation, as it is now called, is an increasingly common treatment for solid tumors of the breast, adrenal glands, kidneys, prostate, and brain. It's a technique to be used to kill the cancer without killing the patient who could not stand the operation, and for tumors that are not, to use the medical term, "resectable."

The problem with radiofrequency ablation of non-resectable pancreatic tumors is that applying radio waves from outside the body would damage healthy pancreatic tissue along with the tumor. To deal with this issue, surgeons at the Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Chinese PLA 309 Hospital in Beijing have developed a technique in which a needle bearing a radio frequency generator is inserted near the cancerous tissue with the help of ultrasound to guide the generator exactly in the right place. The radio waves kill the tumor that the surgeon cannot remove.

The results of this technique, except in possibly one of 32 cases, is not a cure. However, it enables some patients to get off pain medication completely, and it usually adds several months, up to 2-1/2 years, to life.

Short of traveling to Beijing, and even if you had the resources to make the right connections and you could tolerate the trip, it's not going to be easy to find a surgeon who will try the technique on a pancreatic cancer. However, there may be one. That's why I am posting this article. If you would like to read the research in the medical journal, please follow this link.

You may also be interested in:

Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, October 29, 2010

Would Eating Tofu Reduce My Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?

In my last post, I explained some recent research that has found that curcumin in turmeric and isoflavones in soy products are protective against the processes the promote pancreatic cancer. There is good laboratory evidence that soy isoflavones stop the activation of genes that make pancreatic cancer invasive, that spread tumors throughout the body, and that grow a new blood supply for tumors. So would eating tofu stop the disease?

Actually, tofu is not the best source of soy isoflavones. Boiled soybeans, better known as edamame, contain about twice as much. Edamame contain about 27 mg of isoflavones per 50 g (1-1/2 oz) serving, and tofu about 14 mg per similar sized serving. Soy flour contains less than 0.1 mg of the needed plant chemicals, and soy sauce and soy oil, none at all. But more is not better.

The simple fact is, the human body can only absorb the isoflavone content of about 1-1/2 oz of edamame or 3 oz of tofu per day. More is not necessarily harmful, although I personally don't like the idea of eating some kind of soy burger or soy dog that's manufactured with the help of hexane solvents to get the mash to a meat-like color.

The more natural the soy, the better it is for you. You don't have to eat a lot. Whether tofu and other soy products help people who already have pancreatic cancer is an open question--eat them as one of many possible protein sources if you like the taste and you can keep them down.


You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Curcumin and Soy for Protection Against Pancreatic Cancer

Recently I wrote about the potential of curcumin as potential treatment for pancreatic cancer. This antioxidant component of turmeric, the colorful spice used in curry powder, seems to be useful in stopping the growth of many different kinds of cancer cell lines.

In 2006 Arjuna Labs in India figured out a way to combine the essential oil of the spice with the antioxidant component in a capsule for maximum absorption. Their product is on the market in the US, Canada, Australia, and some Europrean countries now. The countries that have the lowest rates of pancreatic cancer, however, are the countries in Asia where people consume not just turmeric but also soy.

The curcumin in turmeric and the isoflavones in soy both have an inhibitory effect on a protein called NF-κB. This protein migrates into the nucleus of the cell where it activates genes that are involved in resistance to apoptosis (resistance to cell-suicide of the cancer-cell, which is triggered by other "watchdog" genes), angiogenesis (growth of a blood supply to the tumor), invasion of surrounding healthy tissues, and metastasis throughout the body.

When cancer cells in a test tube are treated with a combination of curcumin and soy isoflavones, there is also an inhibitory effect on the Notch-1 signalling pathway. The Notch-1 pathway enables cancer cells to evade the self-destruction sequences programmed by cancer-fighting genes. Curcumin or soy isoflavones used individually do not have this effect.

Laboratory studies cannot prove that the combination of these two herb chemicals would actually treat cancer in living human beings. In a living person, the herbs would have to be taken by mouth, digested (or not) in the stomach, absorbed from the small intestine, processed by the liver, and circulated to the pancreas after they pass through many other parts of the body. Even if the herb chemicals survived this process, and there is good evidence that they do, that doesn't mean that cancer patients could give up chemo and just rely on herbs.

This laboratory work does, however, confirm that the results of epidemiological studies in Asia that find that curry and soy eaters are less likely to develop pancreatic cancer probably has a scientific explanation. In the meantime, if you want to prevent pancreatic cancer, consider adding these two common foods to your diet.

The science for this article may be found here.

You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer in Men

Scientists at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey have experimented with testosterone blockers as a way of stopping the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in test tube experiments. At least in the laboratory, blocking the male sex hormone worked independently of the effects of other treatments. We don't have anticancer medications for pancreatic adenocarcinoma that work by blocking sex hormones, yet, but this is something a man's body can already do, especially if he's overweight.

In men, fat cells can transform the male sex hormone testosterone into the female sex hormone testosterone. Both men and women have both testosterones and estrogens in their systems, but the critical factor is the relative ratio. Men have much higher levels of the various testosterones. Women have much higher levels of the various estrogens.

In both sexes, fat cells (which don't just store fat) work as a buffer to keep the ratios right. If you grow especially large and numerous fat cells, however, these hormones can get out of balance.

In men, it's a spiraling cycle. Fat cells reduce testosterone levels, and when there's less testosterone in the blood, then the fat-dissolving enzyme lipase does not work as well. When lipase does not work as effectively, fat cells get fatter. They can degrade more testosterone. This in turn makes lipase even less effective, and the plasma concentrations of the male sex hormone just keep going down.

In pancreatic cancer, this may be a good thing. So that also means that a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, unless your doctor advises you otherwise, absolutely is not the time to go on a weight-loss diet!

If you are obese, you are at greater risk of surgical complications if your doctors decide to operate--but you won't have time to lose weight before they do. Once pancreatic cancer has developed, it's important to nourish your whole body, and to let your belly fat help you in your fight.

You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer

Not getting enough rest raises the risk of pancreatic cancer, especially for women. The link between sleep and pancreatic cancer seems to be the hormone leptin.

Leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone. Made in the fat cells themselves, this hormone sends a message to the brain from your belly fat essentially saying, "OK, we've had enough. You can stop making the rest of the body hungry now." This substance binds to the receptors for a compound called neuropeptide Y, which literally makes you ache to eat, anandamide, which triggers the "munchies" in people who smoke marijuana, and alpha-MSH, another appetite suppressant. The effects of this fat-derived neurotransmitter are long-term. You may not want to skip the very next meal after leptin levels go up, but over time, you will eat less.

Scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and the Harvard University Medical School in Boston tested the idea that not getting enough sleep raises leptin levels. They had volunteers in the sleep lab for two nights getting normal amounts of rest. Then they kept the volunteers up so they only got four hours of sleep for four nights in a row. As a reward, some (but not all, for reasons to be explained in the moment) the participants in the study could eat what they wanted from a breakfast bar.

The researchers learned that leptin levels went up when people got less sleep--especially if they got less sleep and then had the opportunity to eat anything they wanted, and especially in women. But the importance of these findings has more to do with long-term effects than short-term effects.

In the short term, higher leptin levels lead to eating less. Over the long term, higher leptin levels lead to eating more, because at some point, the brain simply stops responding to it. In the terminology of endocrinology, the brain becomes "resistant." If you don't get enough sleep night after night after night, your fat cells can scream "We're full" to the brain all they want, but the brain will never hear them.

What does this have to do with pancreatic cancer?

It turns out that high leptin levels aren't just associated with obesity. They are also associated, at least in animal studies, with pancreatic cancer. If you don't get enough sleep, it seems reasonable to speculate, you just might be increasing your risk of developing this most dreaded of all cancers.

Is there real-world evidence of a sleep-cancer connection? Yes. A research team at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the School of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco found that sleep disturbances are a key diagnostic sign of pancreatic cancer. They are not the only warning sign of this kind of cancer, or even a particularly "good" diagnostic sign of pancreatic carcinoma.

People who get this kind of cancer are about 3 times more likely than the general public to suffer insomnia. They are up to 100 times more likely to have abdominal pain or to have pale stools, 70 times more likely to experience unusual belching, and 67 times more likely to suffer unusual bloating. If you don't sleep well, don't assume you have pancreatic cancer!

But if you know you have pancreatic cancer, take all the measures available to you to get your rest. It may be a critical part of your recovery.
You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer

When most of think about probiotics, we think of maybe some product like Activia yogurt, a commonly consumed culture of Lactobacillus acidophilous. Other strains of probiotic bacteria, however, can be very helpful for people who have pancreatic cancer.

Many people with this form of cancer have surgery. A little over 50 per cent people who have partial removal of the pancreas develop various kinds of intestinal infections. Friendly bacteria don't bring the risk of post-operative bacteria down to zero, but physicians at the Niigata General Hospital in Japan have found that giving their patients a mixture of Enterococcus faecalis T-110, Clostridium butyricum TO-A, and Bacillus mesentericus TO-A reduced the rate of infections from a little over 50 per cent to a little under 25 per cent.

There is also evidence from studies conducted at the University Hospital in Linköping, Sweden that giving lab animals symbiotic bacteria can stop the inflammation that causes pancreatitis that contributes to the development of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Inflammation of the pancreas is accompanied by the accumulation of free radicals of oxygen, often referred to as reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this case, the use of the term "species" does not mean that the oxygen is alive (as one natural health "expert" maintains), but rather that oxygen can exist in different electrical forms. These ROS are also found in other kinds of abdominal injuries.

The antioxidant glutathione neutralizes the ROS and stops inflammation. The role of probiotic bacteria in this process is to stimulate the pancreas to make more glutathione, which stops the inflammation. In studies with animals, Lactobacillus fermentum is especially useful.

So does every pancreatic cancer patient need to run out and get probiotics, preferably in a capsule form that bypasses digestion in the stomach? The answer is no. In fact, it's absolutely not.

When Scandinavian scientists tried giving probiotics to pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis patients after they got sick, they found that patients actually got worse. If patients got probiotics before they got sick, then the antioxidant effect seemed to reduce inflammation and the patients got better.

It seems that the bacteria send signals to the pancreas to get ready for infection. A healthy pancreas gets ready to survive infection, whereas a sick pancreas gets ready to "take itself out." Probiotics are great for health maintenance, and they are probably helpful if taken before surgery, but they should be left alone once surgery has been performed or when cancer is active.
You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Stop Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stopping Pancreatic Inflammation to Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

Any kind of pancreatic inflammation, experts in the field tell us, raises the risk of pancreatic cancer. There is an increased risk of cancer in people who have hereditary pancreatitis, in people who have cystic fibrosis, and in those who have inflammation caused by alcoholism, or irritation and inflammation caused by diseases doctors cannot identify. There is something about chronic irritation and inflammation that causes cells with damaged DNA to accumulate and cancerous cells to proliferate. And inflammation is an important consideration in the development of the disease precisely because the pancreas is not exposed to the toxic stresses that are known to cause metastatic tumors in other organs.

The liver, for example, constantly detoxifies literally tens of thousands of different chemicals from food, medication, the environment, and the body itself. The kidneys and the bladders are exposed to concentrated water-soluble toxic substances. The lungs respond to air pollution and tobacco smoke. The skin is damaged by sunlight.

But the pancreas is more or less protected from all these outside influences. When cancer develops here, it's far more likely to be due to "inside" influences.

Researchers often refer to carcinomas of the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, thyroid, and so on as a "caretaker defect." The watchdog genes that repair damaged DNA for some reason fail to do their job so cancer results.

Researchers refer to carcinoma of the pancreas, on the other hand, as a "landscaper defect." The problem is not just defective DNA inside cells, but also irritant chemicals surrounding them. There are genes that increase the risk of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, but these genes don't get activated unless there are also (1) processes of inflammation and (2) toxic triggers from the environment. Smoking, for instance, greatly increases the risk of pancreatic tumors--but in people who already have pancreatitis.

If there is any good news about this kind of cancer, it may be that since more than one factor is required to cause, there may be more than one way to prevent it. One of the overlooked factors in this disease is the role of the bacteria in the colon, which I'll discuss tomorrow.
You may also be interested in:

"Zapping" Pancreatic Cancer with Radiofrequency Ablation
Tofu and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Curcumin and Soy Isoflavones Against Pancreatic Cancer
Belly Fat, Testosterone, and Pancreatic Cancer
Sleep and Pancreatic Cancer
Probiotics and Pancreatic Cancer
Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?

Curcumin, the best-known antioxidant found in the curry spice turmeric, is touted by natural health "experts" as a great way to prevent and possibly even treat various kinds of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. But if this is the case, and the antioxidant powers of curcumin have been known for decades, why isn't this plant chemical the standard of care?

Part of the answer is that this chemical component of curry powder is not very well absorbed through the intestines, although curcumin in colon cancer treatment is still useful because it does not have to pass through the intestinal wall. Less than 10 per cent of the dose taken by mouth actually finds its way into the hepatic portal vein, the liver, and bloodstream circulation. Doctors at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel report that giving advanced pancreatic cancer patients a combination of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine and curcumins extends life, slightly, but only in about 10 per cent of cases.

Of course, if you already have advanced cancer and you are taking chemotherapy, it's going to be hard to keep food or supplements down and it's going to be hard to get them into your system. (However, see Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer.) Maybe this turmeric chemical is really better used as a tool for prevention--and that's what the science shows.

Dr. Jeremy James Johnson of the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy and Dr. Hasan Mukhtar of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine offer the opinion that there is "overwhelming evidence" that curcumin can kill cancer cells in a test tube in the laboratory. The curry chemical works against breast, cervical, colon, gastric, hepatic, leukemia, oral epithelial, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cell lines. And the problem with absorption may have been overcome by scientists led by researcher Benny Antony at Arjuna Natural Extracts in Alwaye, India.

The way to get curcumin into the bloodstream seems to be combine the antioxidant extract with the essential oil in a capsule. This kind of product seems to increase absorption to nearly 100 per cent, which is 9 to 15 times more than other supplements. If you are going to work with your doctor to take any kind of supplement as part of your cancer care, the very least you want from your supplements is to make sure they are absorbed!

This manufacturing process is only about four years old, so there has not been time for clinical testing. Turmeric and curcumin products are, however, extremely non-toxic even in doses of up to 8,000 mg a day, so it will be worth the effort to consult with your physician about using them to prevent or defeat pancreatic cancer. Take with meals or with fish oil or flaxseed oil capsules. Do not use this supplement if you have gallstones, gallbladder problems, or any kind of obstruction of the bile ducts.


Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

A 1700-year-old Chinese herbal medicine known in the medical literature as PHY-906 has been researched in over 20 scientific studies as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

PHY-906 is a combination of four herbs that are traditionally used to treat nausea and diarrhea. The herbs are scutellaria, licorice, jujube, and peony. As you probably guessed, traditional Chinese medicine does not refer to this combination as PHY-906. It's more commonly referred to as Huangquin Tang. Phytoceutica, a pharmaceutical firm in New Haven, Connecticut, and the School of Pharmacy at Yale developed a protocol for detecting the purity and shelf-stability of patent medicines from China made with these four herbs, and found considerable difference in the potency of products from different companies. (If you would like to check out their protocol, you can find it at http://www.cmjournal.org/content/5/1/30.) Phytoceutica then developed a process for making the herbs in a reliable potency with a pharmaceutical carrier, to make sure they get where they need to go in the digestive tract, which it patented.

This Chinese herbal medicine isn't designed to treat pancreatic cancer by itself. It's designed to make doxorubicin, thalidomide, capecitabine, gemcitabine, and oxaliplatin more bearable so the the chemotherapy can do the actual work for fighting the cancer. There's no doubt you could go to any doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and get the four herbs, probably in a form you would have to "boil up" into a tea (although these particular herbs work better if they aren't actually boiled, but rather steeped in hot water in a covered tea pot). To put it in the terms usually used by alternative medicine gurus, these herbs are a "detox" for chemo, that doesn't interfere with its anti-cancer action. The only side effect of taking these herbs, which work in a manner similar to really strong cup of tea, is that they can cause short-term, reversible constipation--which can be a very minor problem if you have been dealing with diarrhea for weeks or months!

Don't try this own your own. There aren't likely to be any bad interactions with anti-cancer drugs, but the licorice can react with drugs your doctor gives you for high blood pressure, or with steroids. But do inquire if a state-licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine can work with your oncologist to use the herbs to help control the nausea and diarrhea caused by chemo. The Phytoceutica product will probably work better than herbs you brew up at home, but until it's available, your TCM practitioner may be able to help.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Since You Asked: Cinnamon and Bacterial Infection

Last month we published a number of posts on cinnamon for diabetes. We have received a question about whether cinnamon might also help fight urinary tract infections, which are harder to control in people who have type 2 diabetes.

Our answer is a definite maybe.

There has been some research concerning the direct application of cinnamon extracts to catheters as a way to cut down on infections. There has also has been some testing of cinnamon extracts (the kind of cinnamon that is used to flavor oatmeal and pastries, Cinnamon zeylanicum) as a treatment for yeast infections and E. coli infections. The cinnamon extracts are antibacterial against 21 species and antifungal against 4.

There's not yet anything that proves that taking cinnamon capsules, however, could help you get over a bacterial infection. It just seems likely that in the case of bladder infections, it's probably helpful.

Selected Reference:


Unlu M, Ergene E, Unlu GV, Zeytinoglu HS, Vural N.
Composition, antimicrobial activity and in vitro cytotoxicity of essential oil from Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume (Lauraceae).
Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Sep 7.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Mystery of Milk's Relationship to Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

Every diet for reversing diabetes prohibits dairy. But epidemiological studies, like the Caerphilly Prospective Study. find drinking a pint of milk or more every day reduces the risk of prediabetes/metabolic syndrome anywhere from 22 to 82 per cent. How does one account for this discrepancy?

The answer may be hormones.

Drinking milk or eating dairy products has hormonal effects. One of them is that, in many people, milk consumption leads to insulin production.

Too much insulin is a bad thing. Insulin moves sugar out of the bloodstream, but it is much more efficient at moving fat, 300 times more efficient, actually. And while cells can become insulin-resistant, they don't become fat resistant.

If you are on a cleansing diet to reverse diabetes, you really don't want anything stimulating your residual insulin production in ways that encourage the storing of fat. That's why vegan diets, near-vegan diets, and various cleansing diets for treating diabetes usually discourage all dairy products.

But how could drinking milk also prevent diabetes?

Well, sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. In the Caerphilly study, drinking milk did prevent prediabetes, but didn't prevent full-blown diabetes. If anything, drinking milk seemed to cause thin people to become diabetic faster. That's because milk products shift the body's balance of human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor.

The more dairy you consume, the more your body makes insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and the less it makes human growth hormone (HGH). IGF-1 keeps cells from dying at the end of their life cycle. HGH encourages new cells to develop.

IGF-1 lowers blood sugars, so there would be less prediabetes, but the reduction of HGH may lead to full-blown diabetes. Milk consumption may simply lead to the more sudden onset of diabetes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Could Coleus Be the Cure for Diabetes-Related Weight Gain?

The Ayurvedic herb coleus, also known as Plectranthus barbatus or Coleus forskohlii, is a common natural treatment for skin issues, especially cellulite. Some recent research suggests that it may also be a useful aid to weight loss for people who have type 2 diabetes, although it seems to be the most useful for diabetics who have the most weight to lose.

In one study six obese women were given 250 mg of coleus extract (standardized for 10% forskolin content) twice a day for eight weeks. They were instructed not to exercise more or eat less. The women lost an average of 8 pounds despite the fact that they gained an average of 4 pounds of lean body mass.

In another study, sixty obese people were given the same dosage of the plant, with similar results. In this trial, the average weight loss was 4 pounds, but also with a gain of lean body mass.

In a third study, a group of "mildly overweight" men and women were given just 250 mg of forskolin extract a day. They did not lose weight, although they reported having more energy and easier appetite control.

These and other studies suggest that this herb, taken in a dosage of at least 500 mg a day, is a great way for obese people to lose weight effortlessly. Whether moderately overweight people really benefit from it is still an open question, since it is possible that doubling the dosage would have resulted in weight loss. Still, if what you are looking for is losing weight without counting calories, coleus is a prime candidate for your personal weight loss trail.

Selected Reference:

Henderson S, Magu B, Rasmussen C, Lancaster S, Kerksick C, Smith P, Melton C, Cowan P, Greenwood M, Earnest C, Almada A, Milnor P, Magrans T, Bowden R, Ounpraseuth S, Thomas A, Kreider RB. Effects of coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005 Dec 9;2:54-62.

Why Type 2 Diabetes Is Becoming More Common in Asia and Latin America

Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease of older, wealthier adults in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world, but now it is becoming more common in Asia. Part of the explanation for the reach of the world-wide explosion of the epidemic of type 2 diabetes is that fast food, cars, television, and video games are finally becoming available in developing nations, but another part of the explanation is cautionary for persons of Asian descent who have immigrated to other parts of the world.

It's a generally accepted principle that when weight goes up, the risk of becoming diabetic goes up with it. The underlying condition is insulin resistance. Triggered by an illness, or exposure to environmental toxins, cells in the liver and muscles protect themselves from free radicals by shutting down receptor sites that receive sugar out of the bloodstream.

When sugar stays in circulation, the pancreas churns out more insulin to bring blood sugar levels down, and cells protect themselves from the extra free radicals of oxygen that burning sugar makes by becoming even more resistant to this sugar-moving hormone. Insulin continues to be available to store fat, however, so people gain weight. The cellular injury that causes insulin resistance isn't caused by eating too much, that actually comes later.

This process occurs in human beings all over the world, but it blossoms into full-blown diabetes faster in people of Asian or Latin American descent. Even when persons with genetics common in Asia and Latin America are not yet overweight, they already can have high blood sugar levels. Whether it's an excess of environmental pollutants, an unusual kind of genetics that causes insulin resistance, or both, people in these parts of the world need to be especially vigilant about the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Many Asians and Latin Americans have an unusual kind of genetics that favors the deposit of belly fat, the placement of body fat that is most likely to cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Even when they are thin elsewhere on the body, the accumulation of adipose tissue around the waist causes various kinds of disease problems that were once far more common in the industrialized world.

If you are a person of Asian or Latin American heritage, try to get a screening for diabetes whenever you can. Early detection may help you avoid the lifetime of problems that uncontrolled blood sugar levels can bring.

Selected Reference:

Ramachandran A, Snehalatha C. Rising burden of obesity in Asia. J Obes. 2010;2010. pii: 868573. Epub 2010 Aug 30.

Is HbA1C Really a "Diabetic Truth Detector?"

Millions of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics are told that their doctors have a means of telling whether those blood sugar levels they so carefully test every day are truthfully recorded. Diabetics are threatened and cajoled with the promise of a "lie detector," HbA1C, which measures the long-term average of blood sugar levels over a period of about 120 days. But is this measure really useful in that way?

HbA1C is short for glycosylated hemoglobin. It's a measure of the percentage of red blood cells that are coated with sugars joined to their proteins. The higher blood glucose levels go, the theory says, the higher the HbA1C. Generally, doctors try to treat their patients in ways that keep the number  to 7.0% or lower, but there is considerable evidence that a 5.5% level would be associated with a really minimal long-term risk of developing complications.

There are several problems with using HbA1C as a "diabetic lie detector." For one thing, some diabetics have relatively low fasting blood glucose levels in the morning, but anunexpectedly high number. This is a sign of a problem with impaired phase 1 response, an inability of the beta cells of the pancreas to release insulin from its storage form, pro-insulin. Blood sugar levels soar after meals, but by the time dawn rolls around, the pancreas has finally been able to do its work. The numbers taken first thing in the morning won't make sense compared against the long-term measure of glycosylated hemoglobin, unless the patient or the doctor is aware that this kind of problem is possible. When it occurs, the answers are being careful to eat small meals, or taking insulin or insulin-stimulating medication.

Another problem with the use of this "diabetic lie detector" is that sometimes the long-term average is falsely low. That's because really high glucose levels kill off red blood cells. If a blood cell dies before it is measured for glycosylation, it doesn't contribute to the count. Really, really high blood sugars don't necessarily lead to really, really high long-term measures of glycosylation.

HbA1C is a great way to measure progress if you are clearly diagnosed as a diabetic, but it's an imprecise way to tell whether someone is diabetic or not. The problem with using a cutoff below 7.0% is that people who aren't diabetic get labeled as diabetics when the issue is really some variation in the testing process. The initial diagnosis of diabetes still has to be done on the basis of fasting and post-prandial (after-meal) blood sugar levels.

Just don't allow yourself to be browbeaten for a number that is higher than your home blood glucose testing would predict. That only means that there is some unusual pattern in how your pancreas responds to the sugars released by the digestion of a meal, that can be fixed if it is properly identified.

Selected Reference:


Piette JD, Milton EC, Aiello AE, Mendoza-Avelares MO, Herman WH.
Comparison of three methods for diabetes screening in a rural clinic in Honduras
Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2010 Jul;28(1):49-57.

Insulin for Type 2 Diabetes: The Australian Guidelines

Insulin is the one treatment for diabetes that always, at least eventually, lowers blood sugar levels, although some diabetics require more than others. It's always injected. There's no way you can get it in a pill.

Many diabetics erroneously believe that having to take shots once a day or even up to four or five times a day is a sign of failure to manage their disease. It's not. It may actually be the first step to, ironically, not needing to take a daily injection in the future. Australian doctors are now being advised to offer their diabetic patients insulin sooner rather than later. Here's why.

Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics are often advised to take sulfonylurea drugs that stimulate the pancreas to work harder to get blood sugar levels down. The problem with this prescription is that often, by the time someone is diagnosed with type 2, the pancreas just can't work as hard as it used to. Beta cells may have lost their ability to "unzip" the storage hormone pro-insulin into its active form, and often about half, up to 90 per cent, of these insulin-productive cells are already destroyed. It doesn't do any good to keep trying to stimulate something that isn't there.

That's where insulin injections come in. If the pancreas just can't make the hormone at all, shots actually will take care of the problem. Or if the problem is that the beta cells are just "tired," needing to overcome antioxidant stress so that they can resume efficient release of insulin, then maybe taking a shot once or more a day is what is needed to get back on track.

Australian guidelines call for doctors to offer insulin to any type 2 diabetic who is already on the maximum dose of "sugar pills" or sulfonylureas who has an HbA1C of over 7.0%. The Lantus usually prescribed is a "kinder, gentler" form of the hormone that works slowly and is very unlikely to cause hypoglycemia, even when mistakes are made in its use. Diabetics may also be given premixed insulins which help get blood glucose levels down right after meals and keep them down throughout the day and night.

And even if you are not in Australia, you can ask your doctor if this approach might work better for you. Not only is this the only medication that always works, it's also vastly less expensive than the latest drugs.

Selected Reference:


MacIsaac R, Cheung A, Jerums G.
Type 2 diabetes - controlling hyperglycaemia with early insulin use.
Aust Fam Physician. 2010 Aug;39(8):565-9.

More Magnesium May Help Prevent the Progression of Prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes

A new study published in the journal Diabetes Care tells us that magnesium, a mineral abundant in green leafy vegetables, may help prevent the progression of prediabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes. It's an easy way to stop diabetes before it starts.

Dr. Ka He and colleagues at the University of North Carolina and colleagues have learned that over a 20-year period, people who get magnesium from eating their veggies or by taking supplements are only about half as likely to develop type 2 as people who do not. To research the possible link, the North Carolina research team followed 4,497 men and women aged 18 to 30 for two decades, during which 330 developed diabetes. People who consumed the most of this mineral, about 400 to 600 mg a day for a 2,000 to 3,000 calorie daily diet, were only half as likely to become diabetic as those who consumed 200 to 300 mg per day or less.

Exactly how this vital nutrient protects against having problems with blood glucose regulation is not yet known, but Dr. He and associates noted that higher levels were associated with lower levels of inflammation and better performance of several enzymes necessary for the effective action of insulin. It is also possible that the mineral helps regulate calcium, which is the "trigger" for the release of insulin from the beta cells of the pancreas.

Probably the best way to be sure you get enough of this nutrient is to take a daily supplement, from 600 up to 1,800 mg a day (but not more, because of a potential laxative effect), and to eat spinach, kale, dark lettuce, and whole grains whenever you can. Vegetables are a better source of this trace element than whole grains, because of their gentler effect on blood sugar levels.

Selected Reference:


Kim DJ, Xun P, Liu K, Loria C, Yokota K, Jacobs DR Jr, He K.
Magnesium Intake in Relation to Systemic Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, and the Incidence of Diabetes.
Diabetes Care. 2010 Aug 31. [Epub ahead of print]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Five Ways Diabetics Might Maintain Weight Loss After Successful Dieting

If you read the reports of fast weight loss on Medifast Plus, you would almost wonder why anyone would try any other approach to dieting.

A clinical research trial conducted by Medifast scientists and published in the March 2010 edition of the academic Nutrition Journal states that 93% of people on the Medifast program lost weight during their first 16 weeks on the program, on average a little less than 13% of their total body weight. That's about 40 pounds if you weighed 300 pounds at the beginning of the program.

A comparison group of reduced-calorie dieters lost weight, too, but only about 6.5% of their total body weight. That's about 20 pounds if you weighed 300 pounds at the beginning of the program.

The people on the Medifast diet reportedly experienced no more hunger than the dieters who simply ate less, even though half their 1,000 calories a day came from Medifast liquid meal replacements, 5 "shakes" of 100 calories each. The dieters on the meal replacements also were allowed 7 servings of fruit and vegetables, a serving of meat, and up to 2 servings of fat a day to provide omega-3 essential fatty acids and to prevent gallbladder problems.

The physician-supervised diet resulted in more weight loss from fat loss, rather than muscle loss, lower measurements of markers of inflammation, greater shrinkage of the waistline, lower cholesterol, lower triglyercides, and and lower blood pressure. So what's not to love about Medifast?

The fact is, this program is a great way to lose weight. But almost any dieter can lose weight. The real test is not gaining it back. Here are five rules to live by after you have lost some weight.

1. Don't freak out if you overeat at a single meal (for instance, Thanksgiving dinner). In fact, occasionally eating additional calories helps you stay at a lower weight. If you eat additional calories about every tenth meal--but no more often than every three days or so, and no more than 500 extra calories in that meal--your body keeps its set point high so you burn more calories.

2. If you find yourself gaining weight, eat less. It really is as simple as that. Some days you may gain a little weight, some days you may lose a little weight. As long as you don't have more weight-gain days than weight-loss days, you'll keep off those pounds.

3. Don't worry about overeating healthy food. Theoretically, you can get fat eating too many carrot sticks. Actually, nobody ever does. Sometimes your body needs additional amino acids, essential fatty acids, fiber, minerals, or vitamins. You'll instinctively eat something good for you. Enjoy it! Just don't augment it with something you know is not good for your body and not goo for your weight.

4. About once a day, it's OK to go nuts. The fatty acids in almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts stifle appetite. If you feel a need to snack, try a handful (that's one handful) of nuts. A series of research studies has found that dieters who eat nuts lose weight even without reducing calories--although only 1/3 to 1 pound a month. Still, that's better than gaining.

5. Don't get bogged down into a routine. The human body thrives on variety. Instead of a variety of foods, try a variety of activities and interests, and don't worry about a few calories more or less as long as on most days you stay in control of your eating.

Can Type 2 Diabetics Lose Weight with Green Tea Supplements?

You can't walk into an American pharmacy or discount store without seeing whole shelves full of green tea supplements for fast weight loss. Mega-T Green Tea. Green tea "fat burner." Liquid green tea, fruit-powder and green tea, even liquid green tea, all advertised as natural weight loss supplements or safe weight loss pills. There are just three things you need to know.

1. Green tea doesn't assist faster weight loss without the caffeine.

It's not that a de-caf or low-caf green tea doesn't work at all. Researchers in Holland have found that, calorie consumption and exercise held equal (and that required some sophisticated clinical research), dieters who take a green tea supplement with greatly reduced caffeine content still lost more weight, lost a greater percentage of body fat, and wound up with thinner waistlines. Caffeine just makes it easier.

That's because up to about 375 mg of caffeine a day in the mix also suppresses the hunger hormone leptin. This is the appetite-regulating hormone that gets really out of balance when you consume any kind of product made with high-fructose corn syrup. If you are tempted by Twinkies, candy bars, and other packaged sweets and baked goods, it's the caffeine added to the green tea that makes a difference.

2. When it comes to caffeine and green tea in weight reduction, more is not necessarily better.

Drinking more than one or two cups of coffee a day, or more than one or two caffeinated soft drinks a day, will cancel out the benefits of caffeine in green tea. This leads to the third caveat about green tea:

3. Take a supplement. Don't brew green tea to support your success on a diet.

At least don't brew green tea with the expectation it will do the same thing as a supplement. Basically you need the green tea polyphenols (some of the antioxidants found in green tea) from the equivalent of about 40 cups of Matcha green tea a day with the caffeine from one. You can't accomplish this, unless you spend your entire life drinking decaf green tea plus two minutes a day drinking one cup of regular green tea. Supplements work better.

And there is one other thing you need to know about green tea supplements. They are more helpful for keeping weight off than they are for taking it off. Still, they can make a difference equivalent to about 1-2 pounds a month, and that helps.

Advice for Diabetic Weight Loss: Follow A Low-Calorie Diet, But Not All the Time

If you're going to lose weight fast, you're going to have to eat less. The huge problem with a low-calorie diet, however, is that after a while, your body burns fewer calories because you take fewer calories in. However, there is a solution to the inevitable problem of the weight loss plateau. And you'll like it.

Follow your low-calorie diet. Just not all the time.

The logic behind this recommendation for natural fast weight loss is very simple. If you eat fewer calories, your body will burn fewer calories. It only takes 3 or 4 days for your metabolism to match its rate to your lower intake of food.

However, if you eat one "cheat meal" during that 3- or 4-day period, and only one, then your metabolism will continue burning calories at its usual, faster rate. By a cheat meal, I mean an additional 500 calories or so. I do not mean that you should go to an all-you-can-eat buffet and have a plate of everything plus two of every dessert.

Just have a food you like, that's not necessarily low in calories or fat, about once every three days, and only once every three days. You won't slow down your weight gain. In fact, you'll speed it up.

The best way to go about your cheat meals is to plan them. Think about a food you'd really like to eat. Then plan to eat it a day or two from now. Your calories will come out about the same. Instead of, for example, eating:

Day 1 - 1,500 calories
Day 2 - 1,500 calories
Day 3 - 1,500 calories
Day 4 - 1,500 calories
Day 5 - 1,500 calories
Day 6 - 1,500 calories
Day 7 - 1,500 calories

and slowing down your metabolism, try this:

Day 1 - 1,500 calories
Day 2 - 1,500 calories
Day 3 - 1,500 calories + 500-calorie low-sugar treat
Day 4 - 1,500 calories
Day 5 - 1,500 calories
Day 6- 1,500 calories + 500-calorie low-sugar treat
Day 7 - 1,500 calories

Just looking at calories, it would seem you are eating 1,000 more calories a week, so you'll slow down your weight loss by about 1/3 of a pound a week.

However, if your metabolism was just going to slow down, too, you actually lose more weight eating more calories.

Cheat meals only work if they are occasional. About every tenth meal is OK. Don't eat foods to which you allergic, and don't eat foods that interfere with weight loss hormones, such as any food with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sweetener. You may be actually able to tolerate the equivalent of about half a 12-oz soft drink sweetened with HFCS (or, odd as it may sound, a full 12 oz of soft drink made with cane sugar), but it's undoubtedly best just to kick the habit. Make sure your cheat foods are low-sugar foods. Higher-fat, once every 10 meals or so, is actually OK, as long as it is not higher fat and higher sugar.

Whatever favorite food you choose for your cheat meal, make it special. Make it delicious. Make it exactly what you want. Because if you want to lose weight, you won't have anything else like it for another 3 days.

Vinegar for Diabetics Seeking Fast Weight Loss

The idea that dieters can use vinegar to lose weight is not exactly new. In the USA back in the 1960's, for example, the Parade Magazine that came with the Sunday comics always ran an ad for books about cider vinegar weight loss. Those books talked about drinking vinegar straight for various health issues, but nowadays there are apple cider vinegar pills and apple cider vinegar tablets at the health products store and online. Do they really work?

There is good evidence that they do, and the explanation makes scientific sense. Vinegar effectively lowers the glycemic index of food. The way this works is, vinegar becomes bicarbonate after it passes through stomach acid. Once the bicarbonate reaches the colon, it slows down the absorption of sugars.

If your intestine does not release a large amount of sugar into the bloodstream all at once after a meal, your pancreas does not have to release a large amount of insulin to keep blood sugar levels down. This means there is less insulin in circulation to store fat--a task insulin performs about 300 times more efficiently than storing sugar. If you are diabetic, by the way, even if you have "insulin resistance," this only means that certain kinds of cells resist insulin's attempts to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cell. Cells remain able to absorb fat.

The vinegar diet books printed back in the 1960's were bestsellers for years, so it's safe to assume that some people had success using vinegar as their only weight loss intervention. The use of vinegar has been scientifically studied in laboratory animals, although not in people. The laboratory studies suggest that the optimum amount of vinegar would be about 50 ml a day for a person who weighs 100 kilos, or a little under a tablespoon a meal for someone who weighs 200 pounds.

You could, of course, simply drink a little shot glass full of vinegar. Alternatively, you can dress vegetables in a fat-free vinaigrette, or make a habit of eating cucumbers in vinegar. Lemon juice and sourdough bread have the same effect--just don't eat more sourdough bread than your fast weight loss plan allows.

How Diabetics Can Fight Food Addiction

There is probably no better way to enhance fast weight loss than to stop food addiction, and the basic principle is very simple: Just say no sugar, fat, and salt, especially combinations of sugar, fat, and salt. Just say maybe to wheat, meat, and milk products.

Dr. David Kessler, a medical school dean who was also head of the US FDA, has been researching the issues of food addiction since he himself had problems sticking to a low-calorie weight loss diet. What Dr. Kessler has discovered is that the "mouth feel" of foods that are rich in sugar, fat, and salt is in itself addictive.

When you get the feeling of sugar, fat, and salt in your mouth, your brain releases dopamine. There's a good reason for that. For most of human history, sugar, fat, and salt were in short supply. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical, and feeling good makes it easier to remember everything about where you eat foods that contain sugar, fat, and salt.

If you get your sugary, fatty, salty yummies at a restaurant next to two golden arches, then you'll start feeling good when you see golden arches. You also will feel hungry when you see golden arches.

If your nana took you to that restaurant when you were good to give you a treat, then when you eat hamburgers you will think of Grandma. If you see a cheeseburger wrapper, you will think of Grandma and feel good.

The same thing happens at other places you eat foods that are rich in sugar, fat, and salt. They are physically addicting, and your brain wires itself to look for them anywhere it can. That doesn't mean, of course, that you'd only love your grandmother because she took you to McDonald's. However, you might love cheeseburgers because she took you there. Becoming aware of the overlays of experience around the foods that make you gain weight helps you separate food from future happy experiences.

However, there are special reasons to be careful about any foods that contain beef (actually, products that contain beef blood), wheat, or cow's milk. These three categories of food are all high in chemicals known as mu-opioids.

As their name suggests, mu-opioids have the same effect on the brain as opium. They numb the brain to physical and emotional pain. The intense concentration of mu-opioids is the reason you can literally enter a state of bliss when you eat a cheeseburger. And if you add bacon and a side of fries, then you get the double whammy of beef, wheat, and dairy along with sugar, fat, and salt. Sugar, by the way, the second ingredient in the bun--and "whole wheat" buns typically contain more sugar than white.

It's very important to replace the habits that take you to places where you eat the "wrong" foods with habits that take you to places where you eat the "right" foods. It's still a great idea to have a happy meal--just make the meal happy because of the setting, your company, or the fine cooking, not because it was advertised by Ronald the Clown.

Diabetics: Fill Your Plate to Lose More Weight

If you want to understand how the way you plate or present your food helps you curb appetite, consider the example of a food that doesn't curb anyone's appetite, the doughnut.

When most people eat one doughnut, they're quickly ready for another. The reason for this has to do with a lot of things, one of the most important of them, the doughnut's visual cue.

When you look at doughnut, what's the first thing you see? Probably you notice the doughnut hole. It's like a bullseye right in the middle of the doughnut.

Your eyes are round, and the doughnut is round, so as your bring the doughnut close to your face, the doughnut is all you see. And as you put the doughnut in your mouth, it quite literally fills all your senses. That is, it fills all your senses for the 10 seconds it takes you to eat it.

No one knows for sure, but probably if doughnuts were square instead of round, people wouldn't eat as many of them. If you can see around the edges of what you're eating as you bring it up to your mouth, you are more likely to respond to other cues--any cues--that don't scream "Eat me" as you chow down on your favorite foods.

So, try eating off square plates. Fill them up, but fill them up with smaller portions of high-calorie foods and larger portions of vegetables.

People in general clean their plates. Don't try to unlearn a habit you've had all your life. Clean your plate, but after you fill it with healthy, low-calorie, appetite-reducing foods. Take advantage of your "healthy appetite" by actually eating healthy!

You'll notice that we did not suggest that you trying eating off smaller plates. There is good experimental evidence that finds that people are just going to eat a certain number of pounds of food a day, usually at least 1-1/2 pounds (750 g). If you try eating off smaller plates, chances are you will just wind up filling them more often.

Go ahead. Use a large serving plate. Fill it up. A full plate is actually a great appetite suppressant if you fill it up with low-calorie foods, not high-calorie foods. The more you fill up on vegetables, salad, and low-calorie fruit, the less you will fill up on the foods that keep you from losing weight fast.

The Ayurvedic Apothecary for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

Ayurveda is the traditional herbal medicine of India. Numerous herbs that have been used in Ayurveda for centuries hold promise for treating type 2 diabetes, but whether they will really work for you depends on other aspects of your diabetes management. Some Ayurvedic herbs, for example, work every bit as well for lowering your blood sugar levels as conventional drugs such as Glynase and Diabeta and through exactly the same mechanism--but also with the same side effects.

In this series we'll be telling you the essentials about the Ayurvedic herbs and formulas you can find on the Internet and that you will be finding on the Internet as new promoters offer them diabetes care. Some work, some don't, and some work in undesirable ways. But among these herbs you may find a very useful supplement that helps you in extraordinary ways at very low expense.

Acacia arabica for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

The acacia is a tree-sized legume that grows prickly stems and yellow balls of flowers. It's known as babul, prickly acacia, scented thorn, or thorn mimosa, and it is found in India, Africa, and Australia, where is it regarded as an invasive pest. The "beans" of the plant are used as a folk treatment for type 2 diabetes.

There is laboratory evidence from tests with bunnies in the lab that finds that the herb works by encouraging the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete more insulin. That's helpful for lowering blood sugar levels, but it is harmful for gaining weight, and it won't help you overcome the underlying problem that causes type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance. We suggest that there are probably many better approaches to treating type 2 diabetes than eating acacia pods or taking products containing acacia pods, but that they could, if you had absolutely nothing else, help you control blood sugar levels for a few weeks or months. If you are a survivalist looking at the end of the world, then an acacia or two to help your diabetic friends get through is a good idea. Otherwise, there are better options.

Selected Reference:

Wadood A., Wadood N., Shah S.A. Effects of Acacia arabica and Caralluma edulis on blood glucose levels on normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. J. Pakistan Med. Assoc. 1989;39:208–212.

Bengal Quince as a Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

The Bengal quince is a fruit tree in the citrus family that is native to India and Southeast Asia as far east as the Fiji Islands. Also known as stone apple, wood apple, bael, and balvi, the quince bears a fruit that is so hard that it has to be cracked open with a hammer. The fruits contain numerous hairy seeds and sticky, aromatic pulp.

The pulp of the Bengal quince is used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. When eaten with food, it slows the transit of carbohydrates into the intestine, which slows down the release of digested sugars into the bloodstream. If you are an early-stage type 2, and your basic blood sugar issue is not being able to release insulin fast enough to keep your blood sugar levels from soaring after a meal, then this traditional Ayurvedic remedy might be very helpful for you.

If you are type 1 diabetic, you'll still have a problem with rising blood sugar levels, only later, but this may help you manage your sugars when you only have "slow" insulin. Bengal quince is not likely to be very helpful if you are on a meat-based, Atkins-style diet.

Selected Reference:

Karunanayake E.H., Welihinda J., Sirimanne S.R., Sinnadorai G. Oral hypoglycemic activity of some medicinal plants of Sri Lanka. J. Ethnopharmacol. 1984;11:223–231.

Allium cepa (Onion) as an Aid for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

It sounds exotic, doesn't it, using Allium cepa as an aid to controlling type 2 diabetes. The Allium cepa is a traditional and basic healing herb in Ayurvedic medicine, and it's one that you are probably familiar with. This plant is also known as the onion.

Onions help lower blood sugar levels in much the same way as the drug metformin. They contain sulfur-bearing compounds (which also make them stinky on the breath) that regulate the activities of glucose-6-phosphatase and hexokinase in ways that keep the liver from releasing as much sugar early in the morning and under stress. These compounds don't interfere with insulin levels, so they won't "burn out" the beta cells of the pancreas and they won't cause weight gain.

If your beloved and your business associates can stand it, it can be helpful for your blood sugar control to drink raw onion juice, up to about 50 ml (a quarter cup or so) every day. Onion is a scientifically commended, safe, and effective complementary medication for blood sugar control.

Selected References:

Kumari K., Mathew B.C., Augusti K.T. Antidiabetic and hypolipidaemic effects of S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide, isolated from Allium cepa Linn. Ind. J. Biochem. Biophys. 1995;32:49–54.

Mathew P.T., Augusti K.T. Hypoglycemic effects of onion, Allium cepa Linn. on diabetes mellitus- a preliminary report. Ind. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 1975;19:213–217.

Garlic as a Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

Another useful herbal treatment for type 2 diabetes is the popular yet often vilified herbal medicine garlic. It is used in Ayurveda and in traditional medicine all over the world. Fifteen years ago the herb expert Mark Blumenthal told audiences, after counting the papers himself, that there were over 2,000 scientific studies confirming the health benefits of garlic and garlic supplements. We don't know if he's updated his count (are you reading, Mark, please tell us), but there is voluminous evidence for the evidence of garlic for numerous health conditions. We will just comment on garlic for type 2 diabetes here.

The beneficial compound derived from garlic is a sulfur-bearing compound called allicin. You don't have to chomp down on cloves of garlic to get allicin into your system. In fact, you can only get allicin into circulation from garlic supplements. The chemical just does not survive digestion in your stomach unless it is specially coated by an industrial process. Allicin is a potent fighter of free radicals, and as such helps protect cells from high blood sugar levels. When cells don't have to protect themselves against free radicals, they are less insulin-resistant, and take glucose out of the bloodstream more readily.

There are also compounds relevant to diabetes in garlic that you do not have to get from supplements. S-allyl-cysteine is another sulfur-bearing compound that lowers blood sugar levels, this time by stimulating the production of insulin. It won't have any effect if you don’t have active beta cells, and its benefits are really pretty marginal even if you do. You can't add enough garlic to your pasta to cancel out the carbs, although garlic is basically a healthy food. Garlic odor emanates from the mouth and tongue, and a good brushing or rinsing gets rid of most of it quickly.

Selected Reference:

Augusti K.T., Shella C.G. Antiperoxide effect of S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide, an insulin secretagogue in diabetic rats. Experientia. 1996;52:115–120.

Aloe as a Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

If you live in much of the English-speaking world, you are probably familiar with aloe as a houseplant that oozes a sap that can be used to treat cuts, scrapes, and burns. If you live in the Dutch- and German-speaking world, you are probably familiar with aloe as a laxative. And if you live in India, you may know aloe as a vegetable that helps type 2 diabetics lower blood sugar levels.

Much of the research into anti-diabetes herbs and anti-diabetes foods in India has been aimed at offering a treatment for diabetics who literally would have nothing else. The studies of aloe for type 2 diabetes in India have focused on eating boiled aloe along with the rice, bread, and lentils that are served at every meal.

The results of eating aloe as a vegetable are less than spectacular, but they do usually get blood sugar levels into the 150-175 mg/dl range. That's not "good control," but it's a lot better than having blood sugar levels of 250-400 mg/dl. The plant contains anti-inflammatory compounds and seems to stimulate the release of insulin by "unzipping" the insulin that is already made and stored in the pancreas faster after meals.

If you are on medication, and you are able to find or raise aloe to eat, or if you drink a daily shot of aloe juice, you are not likely to notice much of a difference. It will not cause you to "fall out" from hypoglycemia. It's best, however, to focus on other methods of blood sugar control unless you find yourself in an unusual situation.

Selected Reference:

Davis R.H., Maro N.P. Aloe vera and gibberellins, Anti-inflammatory activity in diabetes. J. Am. Pediat. Med. Assoc. 1989;79:24–26.

Neem for Type 2 Diabetes

The neem tree is provides probably the most versatile herbal healing materials in Ayurveda, next to honey, ghee, and garlic. It's used for everything from allergies to birth control.

Neem may be of some value to type 2 diabetics who can't get their blood sugar levels under control. Some research suggests that the anti-inflammatory action of neem may protect the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas from the series of events that causes them to "burn out." Much better, however, is to keep blood sugar levels under control!

Selected Reference:

Gupta S, Kataria M, Gupta PK, Murganandan S, Yashroy RC. Protective role of extracts of neem seeds in diabetes caused by streptozotocin in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Feb;90(2-3):185-9.

Bonduc as a Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

Bonduc, also known by its botanical name Caesalpinia bonducella and the English colloquialism nicker nut, is an Indian tree that produces seed pods resembling beans. The "beans" are harvested and dried for use in jewelry, rosaries, and herbal medicine. Bonduc is a widely used folk medicine for diabetes in coastal India.

The research on bonduc is all very preliminary, but it seems to help normalize blood sugar levels in several different ways. It slows the absorption of sugars from digested food, increases insulin sensitivity in the liver, and may stimulate the release of insulin by the pancreas.

The chances of your getting all of these benefits from a capsule of bonduc powder are really slim. It would have to be eaten as a food. If you are in India and you have access to the product, however, it may be a helpful adjunct in managing type 2 diabetes.

Selected Reference:

Chakrabarti S., Biswas T.K., Rokeya B., Ali L., Mosihuzzaman M., Nahar N., Khan A.K., Mukherjee B. Advanced studies on the hypoglycemic effect of Caesalpinia bonducella F. in type 1 and 2 diabetes in Long Evans rats. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2003;84:41–46.

Karir for Type 2 Diabetes

Karir or kerda (Capparis decidua) is a low-growing leafless tree found in arid regions in India, especially in Mahabharata state. It bears red flowers and pink berries that are used for pickles, curries, and treating diabetes.

Eating karir fruit may provide antioxidants that help fight insulin resistance--or it may not. The research is not really conclusive. The fruits are, however, tasty and are very unlikely to cause type 2 diabetics to suffer hypoglycemia.

Selected References:

Yadav P., Sarkar S., Bhatnagar D. Lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzymes in erythrocytes and tissues in aged diabetic rats. Indian J. Exp. Biol. 1997;35:389–392.

Coccinia cordifolia for Type 2 Diabetes

The medical journal Diabetes Care reported a clinical trial of a "new" Ayurvedic herb for treating type 2 diabetes, Coccinia cordifolia.

Better known as koval in Ayurvedic medicine, this plant is in the same family as the better known bitter melon. Like the bitter melon, koval both grows wild and is cultivated. People eat its fruits and shoots. It is a common plant in India and Bangladesh that grows in a habit like kudzu in Japan and the USA.

Coccinia grows enormous tubers that anchor it into the ground. When the tubers "root," it then spreads vines in all directions. The plant trumpet-like white blossoms that produce a zucchini-shaped but purplish-red fruit. Ayurvedic medicine has used the fruit and the leaves for centuries as a treatment for diabetes, but the study in Diabetes Care is the first detailed clinical trial.

Scientists at the St. John's National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore prepared a standardized extract from 15 grams of the dried herb. They gave the extract or a placebo to 60 newly diagnosed type-2 diabetics for 60 days.

If you're familiar with how most prescription medications for diabetes work (many of them encourage weight gain), you'll be impressed that the finding that people who took the herb not only did not gain weight, there was a slight trend to weight loss (less than 0.1 kilo, or one-quarter pound, per month). There was also a very slight trend to slimmer waists and tighter hips (again, a few millimeters, or tenths or an inch), all without any changes in food eaten or total calories. Body fat percentages, however, very slightly rose.

And as you may have read in other natural health headlines, the Ayurvedic herb definitely lowered blood sugars.

At the beginning of the study, the average fasting blood sugar in the test group was 132 mg/dl, and the average post-prandial (after-eating) blood sugar was 183 mg/dl.

The effects of the herb gradually increased over 90 days. By the end of the third month of the clinical trial, the average fasting blood glucose among the diabetics who got the herb had fallen to 111 mg/dl, while the diabetics who did not get the herb actually had slightly higher morning blood glucose levels. Among the diabetics getting the herb, post-prandial (after-eating) blood sugars also improved, to an average slightly below 150 mg/dl. The improvement in blood sugar levels was confirmed by an average drop of 0.6 per cent in HbA1C.

The researchers noted that similar percentages of diabetics getting the herb (94 per cent) and diabetics getting the placebo (93 per cent) were able to stick to their diabetic diets. The difference in blood sugars was due to the herb. It's also important to note that the diabetics taking the herb did not take any of the medications for diabetes commonly prescribed in North America, Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, and that they did not have blood sugar levels requiring immediate use of insulin.

So how does Coccinia cordifolia work?

The researchers don't know for sure, but it seems that some chemical in the herb is insulin-mimetic. That is, this as-yet-unidentified compound works the same way as insulin in clearing glucose out of the bloodstream, but does not work the same way as insulin in moving triglycerides into hungry fat cells.

Will a koval extract for type-2 diabetes be coming soon to a natural health products retailer near you? Just ask at any retailer specializing in Ayurvedic herbs or anywhere the proprietary extract Gencinia is sold. It's already available. If you take the herb, use 15 g (about half an ounce) a day to make a tea, drunk warm after brewing in a closed tea pot for 15 minutes. If you use a 15:1 dried extract, use 1,000 mg (1 g) per day.

If you have relatively mild type-2 diabetes and you are taking your blood sugars every day and avoiding carbohydrates, this herb is certainly worth a try.

Selected Reference:

Kuriyan R, Rajendran R, Bantwal G, Kurpad AV. Effect of supplementation of Coccinia cordifolia extract on newly detected diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2008 Feb;31(2):216-20. Epub 2007 Nov 13.

Indian Gooseberry Fruit as a Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

Indian gooseberry fruit, also known as jamun, is a commonly used treatment for type 2 diabetes in India and, interestingly, Ecuador. The wonderful thing about Indian gooseberry as a treatment for type 2 diabetes is that research tells us that it actually works, and it even works when the starting blood sugar levels are quite high. Research from India tells us that 1-2 grams of Indian gooseberry a day "controls" blood sugar levels after 1-2 months.

Unfortunately, the research does not also tell us what "control" means. Did the users of Indian gooseberry have fasting blood sugar levels below 200 mg/dl? 150 mg/dl? 300 mg/dl? Before they gave up their medications, did they suffer hypoglycemia? Would it be safe to drive, to operate heavy equipment, or to do brain surgery if you use this herb?

The study is, as the researchers admit, "preliminary." If you take your blood sugar levels regularly, however, you can find out for yourself how well Indian gooseberry works for you. Start with a very small amount, say 1/8 of a teaspoon, and don't proceed without testing blood sugar levels.

Selected Reference:

Kochhar A, Nagi M. Effect of supplementation of traditional medicinal plants on blood glucose in non-insulin-dependent diabetics: a pilot study.J Med Food. 2005 Winter;8(4):545-9.