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Groundbreaking study tests dietary supplements for diabetes prevention

12 October 2016

A world-first study led by the University of Sydney will investigate whether two commonly used over-the-counter natural medicines can help prevent diabetes.

Researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre will conduct the trial over a period of 12 months to determine whether the dietary supplements provide any additional health benefits to a lifestyle program for the prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus.  

Participants will be given two supplements – Nuvexa® with FBCx™, a fibre derived from corn used in weight management; and GINST15™, an active ingredient in ginseng – in addition to routine clinical care for pre-diabetes management.

The study hopes to reveal whether these remedies promote extra health advantages on cholesterol levels and glycaemic control respectively, using a large sample size of 400 participants.

"Until now, most of the evidence surrounding over-the-counter products for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease is backed by research that is short-term in small groups of people, and the findings emerge from poorly-designed studies," said lead researcher Dr Nick Fuller.

Despite many traditional medicines being used for centuries, they are often backed by anecdotal or weak evidence supporting their effectiveness in treating various illnesses.
Dr Nick Fuller

"If proven to be effective, these supplements will offer a low cost and safe option for the prevention of type 2 diabetes without having to intervene with pharmaceutical or traditional medicine. And most importantly, complementary medicine may offer a solution towards reducing the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the first place."

In recruiting participants with high body mass index and elevated blood glucose levels, the researchers also hope to raise awareness of the silent condition pre-diabetes.

Currently one in six Australian adults aged over 25-years-old suffer from pre-diabetes, an asymptomatic condition linked to metabolic syndrome which puts individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Aside from high blood sugar levels, pre-diabetes is a condition with no other symptoms. Studies such as these are critical in order to increase awareness of the risks of pre-diabetes, which if left untreated will result in type 2 diabetes and complications such as blindness and amputations," said co-lead researcher Associate Professor Tania Markovic, from the University of Sydney's Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders.

Throughout the trial, participants will receive free dietary supplements and weight loss advice from a team of dietitians and exercise physiologists. They will also undergo regular medical monitoring including blood tests and full body composition scans to measure the amount of muscle and fat in the body, as well as cognitive function testing and grocery vouchers towards the purchase of foods.

Study recruitment is currently underway, with 130 people already signed on to participate. Results of the trial are expected by 2018.

Researchers are now seeking Sydney-based participants aged between 18-70 years of age who are interested in weight loss and diabetes prevention for the trial.

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