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Nutraceuticals, Glycemic Health and Type 2 Diabetes

Nutraceuticals, Glycemic Health and Type 2 Diabetes by Vijai K. Pasupuleti and James W. Anderson (eds). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell; 2008. Paperback; 489 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-8138-2933-3. $229.99.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), has become a scourge of the modern world, reaching epidemic proportions in various countries.

This serious and chronic disease can have various complications for health if it is allowed to progress. For this reason, various pharmaceutical preparations, as well as herbal and other nutritional supplements (sometimes referred to as “nutraceuticals”), can be of benefit in the treatment of this rapidly spreading disease.

This book is a veritable wealth of information regarding nutraceuticals, functional foods, nutritional strategies, and herbal therapy for the prevention or treatment of type 2 diabetes. The editors, Vijai Pasupuleti, PhD, president of SAI International (a research group based in Geneva, IL) and James Anderson, MD, professor of Medicine and Clinical Nutrition a the University of Kentucky, have done an excellent job striking a balance between the diverse approaches to prevention and treatment contained in this treatise. No treatment or therapy is recommended over another, but rather an integrative or holistic approach to treating this disease is the main theme throughout the book.

The authors stress the importance of an adequate lifestyle and healthy nutrition in order to stave off this chronic disease and its serious health consequences. Among the contributing factors to this disease—which include diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle—they also mention mental stress as part of the overall etiology of type 2 diabetes, a topic that is rarely included in publications related to this disease.

In addition to providing general information on the causes and occurrence of diabetes, the book covers the differences between the terms “glycemic index” and “glycemic load,” explains the effects of specific foods upon glucose levels, discusses the effect of dietary fiber and diverse phytochemicals in the prevention and reversal of type 2 diabetes and its complications, discusses minerals and insulin metabolism, mentions oxidative stress and its relationship to diabetes, explores the use of natural starch from high-amylose corn in order to improve glucose metabolism, and mentions proteins and amino acids and their effects on type 2 diabetes. Many of the book’s chapters also highlight the use of various medicinal plants for treating diabetes.

Chapter 8, for instance, mentions the phytochemical compounds present in cinnamon (Cinnamomun verum, Lauraceae) and cassia

(C. aromaticum), such as cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, and their effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. The results of both animal research and human clinical trials in both species are discussed, as well as the possible modes of action of the diverse phytochemicals on glucose metabolism and pancreatic function.

Chapter 9 discusses soy bean (Glycine max, Fabaceae) and soy-derived products and their effects on obesity and diabetes. The diverse bioactive ingredients contained in soy, such as pinitol, isoflavones, peptides, and phytosterols, are discussed regarding their potentially synergistic effect in treating obesity and insulin resistance in the diabetic patient.

Chapter 12 reviews the effects of ginseng species on type 2 diabetes. Both Asian (Panax ginseng, Araliaceae) and American (P. quinquefolius) ginseng species have known hypoglycemic effects and contain saponins, as well as a variety of other compounds, which may have glucose-lowering effects. The difference in the chemical composition of both species is discussed, as well as an in-depth review of the literature concerning clinical data of ginseng treatment for diabetes.

Chapter 13 summarizes treatment options included in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including the use of various herbs, such as dogwood (Cornus officinalis, Cornaceae), bitter melon—also called balsam pear—(Momordica charantia, Cucurbitaceae), and privet (Ligustrum lucidum, Oleaceae), among others. The effects of various herbs and animal products used in TCM are discussed with regard to improving the outcome of type 2 diabetes.

Chapter 14 concerns the use of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum, Fabaceae), as well as other herbs used in Indian medicine, as hypoglycemic agents. Fenugreek has been used for hundreds of years in Arabic, Indian, and Chinese medicine due to its nutritive and therapeutic capabilities. The plant’s seeds are employed for their expectorant actions, as well as for their glucose-lowering effects. Another plant used in Indian medicine and discussed in this chapter is gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre, Apocynaceae), particularly its effects on pancreatic function and glucose metabolism.

Chapter 15 discusses the use of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp., Cactaceae) and other plants used to treat diabetes in Mexican traditional medicine. The clinical trials including cactus (or nopal in Spanish) are discussed, as well as the limited data available on other plants such as matarique (Psacalium decompositum, Asteraceae), chilacayote (Cucurbita ficifolia, Cucurbitaceae) and guarumbo (Cecropia obtusifolia, Cecropiaceae). Unfortunately, no information is mentioned about another important plant from the gourd family: wereke or coyote melon (Ibervillea sonorae, Cucurbitaceae), the root of which is also used to treat diabetes in Mexico. The research is limited and has been conducted only in animals.

The book’s final chapter discusses future trends and directions in the treatment and management of type 2 diabetes, highlighting the importance of lifestyle changes, as well as nutritional, herbal, and nutraceutical approaches for its prevention and/or treatment.

This book, even at its relatively hefty price, should be read by all biomedical professionals, such as nutritionists, physicians (conventional as well as naturopathic), nurses, and even herbalists who have an interest in helping to reduce the incidence of one of the most devastating diseases of “modernity.”

—Armando González-Stuart, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Texas at El Paso and UT Austin, Cooperative Pharmacy Program