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.