A type of herb called buckwheat may be beneficial in the management of diabetes, say researchers.
A new treatment for diabetes?
Extracts of the seed lowered blood glucose levels by up to 19% when it was fed to diabetic rats.
Scientists at the University of Manitoba in Canada say diabetics should consider including the grain in their diet, or taking dietary supplements.
The study, part funded by the food industry, is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Lead researcher Dr Carla Taylor said: "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.
"Buckwheat won't cure diabetes, but we'd like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid."
More work needed
However, Dr Taylor said human studies were needed to determine how much buckwheat - in flour or extract form - must be eaten to obtain a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels.
The researchers focused on rats with Type 1 diabetes caused by a lack of the hormone insulin, which is needed to break down sugar in the blood.
The rats were given a single dose of buckwheat extract or a dummy preparation.
The researchers believe the key component of buckwheat is a compound called chiro-inositol.
The compound, which is relatively high in buckwheat and rarely found in other foods, has been previously shown in animal and human studies to play a significant role in glucose metabolism and cell signalling.
Researchers do not know exactly how it works, but preliminary evidence suggest that it may make the cells more sensitive to insulin or may act as an insulin mimic.
Although the research concentrated on Type 1 diabetes, the researchers believe that buckwheat will have a similar glucose-lowering effect when given to rats with the Type 2 form of the condition.
Type 2 diabetes is more common and is caused by a failure of the body's cells to respond properly to insulin.
A spokesman for Diabetes UK said: "A healthy diet is a vital part of managing diabetes and a food that could actively reduce blood glucose levels could be a real breakthrough.
"However, we need to see if this will work for people and what amounts would be necessary to have an effect.
"The required doses could also have side effects. We look forward to seeing more research."