Page last updated at 23:25 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 00:25 UK

Chamomile tea 'may ease diabetes'

Chamomile tea
The tea appeared to inhibit key enzymes

Drinking chamomile tea daily may help prevent the complications of type 2 diabetes, such as loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, a study says.

UK and Japanese researchers fed a chamomile extract to diabetic rats.

The extract appeared to cut blood sugar levels and block activity of an enzyme associated with the development of diabetic complications.

Charity Diabetes UK cautioned against patients acting on the findings until further research had been carried out.

However, researchers say the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study raises hope of a new anti-diabetes drug.

More research would be needed before we can come to any firm conclusions about the role chamomile tea plays in fighting diabetes-related complications
Dr Victoria King
Diabetes UK

Cases of type 2 diabetes, many of which are linked to obesity, are on the increase throughout the developed world.

Chamomile, also known as manzanilla, has been used for years as a medicinal cure-all to treat a variety of medical problems including stress, colds and menstrual cramps.

Researchers from University of Toyama, led by Atsushi Kato, fed chamomile extract to a group of diabetic rats for 21 days and compared the results with a group of control animals on a normal diet.

Enzyme inhibition

Blood glucose levels - high levels of which are a sign of diabetes - were significantly lower in the animals fed the extract, which appeared to inhibit production of the sugar in the liver.

Tests also showed reduced activity of an enzyme called aldose reductase in tissue samples from the extract group.

This enzyme helps change glucose into a sugar alcohol called sorbitol.

In people with type 2 diabetes, the activity of aldose reductase increases as glucose levels rise in the blood.

However, sorbitol does not move easily across cell membranes and it can collect in excess quantity, particularly in eye and nerve cells, where it can cause serious damage.

Dr Victoria King, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: "More research would be needed before we can come to any firm conclusions about the role chamomile tea plays in fighting diabetes-related complications.

"Diabetes UK wouldn't recommend people with diabetes increase their chamomile tea intake just yet.

"Eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical activity and adhering to any prescribed medicines remain key ways to effectively control blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood fats.

"Good diabetes management will help reduce the risk of serious complications such as heart disease, stroke and blindness."

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