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Traditional Chinese medicine Tianqi greatly reduces diabetes risk

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Study shows Tianqi has success similar to the drugs acarbose and metformin with few adverse events

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use herbal medicines and various mind and body practices to treat or prevent health problems. In the United States, people use TCM primarily as a complementary health approach.

Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Prediabetes means a person is at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as for heart disease and stroke. Many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

“With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases,” said Dr. Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, and Director of Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research at the University of Chicago, and one of the study’s authors. “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.”

In this new study, researchers examined whether Tianqi prevented T2DM in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) over the course of a 12-month treatment.

For this double-blind randomized placebo controlled, multi-center trial, had enrolled 420 participants with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) at 11 research sites in China. A total of 389 participants had completed the trial.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either Tianqi , a capsule containing a mixture of 10 Chinese herbal medicines such as Huang Qi (astragalus root), or a placebo for 12 months. Oral glucose tolerance tests were conducted every 3 months to assess the development of diabetes or restoration to normal glucose tolerance. All participants received a month of lifestyle education at the outset of the trial and met with nutritionists several times during the course of the study.

At the end of 12 months, 389 participants completed the trial; 198 in the Tianqi group and 191 in the placebo group.

The results showed at end of trial 36 participants in the Tianqi group (18.8%) and 56 in the placebo group (29.32%) had developed diabetes.

There was a significant difference in the number of subjects who had normal glucose tolerance at the end of the study between the Tianqi (125 participants or 63.13%) and placebo groups (89 participants or 46.60%).

After researchers controlled for age and gender Tianqi reduced the risk of diabetes by 32.1% compared with the placebo. The researchers called attention to the fact that the success of the Tianqi group rivals the prescription drug success of acarbose and metformin, with few side effects having been reported.

No severe adverse events occurred in the trial. There were no statistical differences in body weight and body mass index changes between the Tianqi group and the placebo group during the 12-month trial.

In their conclusion the researchers write “Treatment with a Tianqi capsule for 12 months significantly decreased the incidence of T2DM in subjects with IGT, and this herbal drug was safe to use.”

“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,” said Dr. Chun-Su Yuan.

Dr. Xiaolin Tong, of Guang’anmen Hospital in Beijing and lead author of study commented “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.”

This study appears in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

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