Research conducted at the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai, China has revealed that emodin - a natural product extracted from herbs such as Rheum palmatum and Polygonum cuspidatum - may be a useful treatment for type 2 diabetes.
When laboratory mice with diet-induced obesity were fed emodin, scientists discovered that they had lower blood glucose, improved sensitivity to insulin and healthier levels of lipids in their blood. Emodin also decreased the body weight and central fat mass of the mice.
The consumption of sugar causes a high influx of glucose into the bloodstream, to which the body responds by releasing insulin. An enzyme known as 11ß-HSD1 has been observed to promote the activity of a set of hormones known as glucocorticoids, which have the opposite effect to insulin.
The researchers suggest that emodin may inhibit 11ß-HSD1 and help reduce the harmful effects of diabetes.
"Our work showed that this natural extract from Chinese herbs could point the way to a new way of helping people with type 2 diabetes," said lead author Ying Leng. "Researchers will need to develop chemicals that have similar effects, and see which of these could be used as a therapeutic drug."