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Date posted: 14 August 2012
More than 180 million people around the world suffer from diabetes and the World Health Organisation estimates the number is likely to double by 2030, with India, China and the US predicted to have the largest number of those affected. Now researchers at Swinburne University have found that extracts from traditional Aboriginal and Indian plants may be helpful in managing or even preventing the disease.
Diabetes refers to a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar either because the body does not produce enough insulin or because the cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced.
Associate Professor Enzo Palombo and his team at Swinburne investigated 12 medicinal plant extracts to determine their potential to slow down two key enzymes in metabolising carbohydrates that affect blood sugar levels. The results showed that most of the traditional plant extracts tested had the potential to prevent or manage diabetes.
Associate Professor Palombo heads the environment and biotechnology centre in Swinburne's faculty of life and social sciences. He says more than 800 plants are used as traditional remedies in various countries for treating diabetes but that achieving successful treatments without any side effects remains a challenge.
The researchers evaluated the activity of seven Australian medicinal plants used by traditional Aborigines, along with five Indian Ayurvedic plants, against metabolic enzymes that break down carbohydrates in a person's diet into simple sugars. Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional Hindu system of alternative treatment of diseases in India.
'As a microbiologist, I have an interest in alternative methods for treating viral and bacterial infections,' Dr Palombo says. 'We've had a long history in my laboratory of looking at natural medicines and their capacity to serve as alternatives to current drugs such as antibiotics that face growing bacterial resistance and are becoming less effective. So we need new forms of treatment.'
Source: The Age