Traditional Chinese herbal medicaton found comparable to prescription drugs for control of pre-diabetes

by Bruce Sylvester – A traditional Chinese herbal medication appears to slow progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, and at a rate similar to prescription treatments, researchers reported in the February, 2014 issue of the  Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases,” said investigator Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesia and critical care, Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois (USA). “Patients often struggle to make the necessary lifestyle changes to control blood sugar levels, and current medications have limitations and can have adverse gastrointestinal side effects. Traditional Chinese herbs may offer a new option for managing blood sugar levels, either alone or in combination with other treatments.”

As background, the authors noted that pre-diabetes is indicated by elevated blood sugar, but not to the point of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

In the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 389 pre-diabetic subjects at 11 research sites in China were randomized for a year to either a capsule containing a mixture of Chinese herbal medicines called Tianqi or to placebo, taken three times a day before meals.

All subjects had lifestyle education at baseline and met with nutritionists during the study.

Clinicians measured their glucose tolerance on a quarterly basis.

At one year, 36 subjects in the Tianqi group and 56 in the placebo group had developed diabetes.

Analysis of the data showed that Tianqi use reduced the risk of diabetes by 32.1 percent when compared to placebo, after adjustments for age and gender. Overall reduction in risk of developing diabetes was comparable to findings in prior studies of acarbose and metformin.

Subjects reported few side effects from Tianqi treatment.

“Few controlled clinical trials have examined traditional Chinese medicine’s impact on diabetes, and the findings from our study showed this approach can be very useful in slowing the disease’s progression,” said one of thelead authors, Xiaolin Tong, MD, PhD, of Guang’anmen Hospital in Beijing, China. “More research is needed to evaluate the role Chinese herbal medicine can play in preventing and controlling diabetes.”