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Buckwheat May Help Manage Diabetes

Grain May Aid in Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
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WebMD Health News

Nov. 21, 2003 -- A hearty grain commonly found in pancakes and soba noodles may help people with diabetes maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

New research shows that the extract of buckwheat lowered meal-related blood sugar levels by 12%-19% when given to rats bred to have diabetes.

Researchers say if further studies confirm these results, buckwheat may be used as a nutritional supplement or incorporated as a food into the diets of people with diabetes to help manage the disease.

"With diabetes on the rise, incorporation of buckwheat into the diet could help provide a safe, easy and inexpensive way to lower glucose levels and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease, including heart, nerve, and kidney problems," says researcher Carla G. Taylor, PhD, associate professor in the department of human nutritional sciences at the University of Manitoba in Canada, in a news release.

"Buckwheat won't cure diabetes, but we'd like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid," says Taylor.

Buckwheat Lowers Blood Sugar

In the study, published in the Dec. 3 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers compared the effects of a single dose of buckwheat extract or a placebo on blood sugar levels in about 40 diabetic rats.

The rats were bred to have type 1 diabetes, which is the less common form of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes) do not produce the hormone insulin needed to maintain normal blood sugar levels and are treated with daily insulin shots.

Researchers found that diabetic rats fed buckwheat extract prior to eating a meal containing sugar had blood sugar levels 12%-19% lower than the diabetic rats fed the placebo, which suggests that the extract can lower blood sugar levels after a meal.

Although the rats were bred to have type 1 diabetes, researchers say buckwheat may have a similar beneficial effect in animals with type 2 diabetes, and they plan to test that theory next. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body is unable to properly respond to insulin.

Researchers say the active ingredient in buckwheat thought to be responsible for the blood sugar lowering effects is chiro-inositol. This compound is found in high levels in buckwheat and rarely found in other foods.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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