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Antidiabetic Effects of Panax ginseng Berry Extract and the Identification of an Effective Component
STUDY: Antihyperglycemic and anti-obese effects of Panax ginseng berry extract and its major constituent, ginsenoside Re, in obese diabetic mice and their lean littermates.
JOURNAL: Diabetes 51:1851-1858, 2002
AUTHORS: Anoja S. Attele, Yun-Ping Zhou, Jing-Tian Xie, Ji An Wu
ABSTRACT: We evaluated antihyperglycemic and anti-obese effects of Panax ginseng berry extract and its major constituent, ginsenoside Re, in obese diabetic C57BL/6J ob/ ob mice and their lean littermates. Animals received daily intraperitoneal injections of Panax ginseng berry extract for 12 days. On day 12, 150 mg/kg extract–treated ob/ob mice became normoglycemic (137 ± 6.7 mg/dl) and had significantly improved glucose tolerance.
COMMENTARY: IT’S ONE of those cases when you shrug your shoulders and ask, “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?” For more than 2,000 years, Chinese practitioners have prescribed ginseng root to restore energy to patients suffering from everything from cancer to heart failure. In the United States, extracts made from the ginseng root are the fifth best-selling herbal supplement.
But only now, for the first time, have Chicago researchers studied the berry of the ginseng and found that it — not the root — may hold the key to wellness for millions. Previously, there had been no study of the ginseng berry’s biological activity, People believed that nutrients accumulated in the root and thus shied away from testing the berry for medicinal effects. A new study, which appears in the June issue of the journal Diabetes, suggests they should have broadened their view long ago. Antidiabetic Effects of Panax ginseng Berry Extract and the Identification of an Effective Component
It is stunning how different the berry is from the root in terms of its chemical profile and by how effective it is in correcting the multiple metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes. In fact, the berry is more effective than the root in multiple ways, with an extract made from its pulp normalizing blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels in fat mice. Additionally, obese mice given the extract ate less and exercised more — the payoff being weight loss. There’s some anti-diabetes effect with the root, but the effect of the berry is much stronger. Additionally ginseng root doesn’t change body weight at all.
The Key Ingredient
So what makes the ginseng berry so unique? In terms of its weight-loss effects, that remains to be seen. But when it comes to fighting diabetes, the key ingredient appears to be a substance known as ginsenoside Re. “This is very interesting,” says Dr. Nathaniel Clark, national vice president for clinical affairs at the American Diabetes Association (ADA). “The results are quite dramatic both in helping blood sugar levels to normalize and in causing weight loss, which is extremely important in type 2 diabetes.”
For the study, Yuan and colleagues used genetic engineering to breed mice predisposed to weight gain and type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity.
Among the findings of the 12-day study:
Daily injections of an extract of the ginseng berry extract restored normal blood sugar in mice who had suffered “quite high” levels. Treated mice also had better scores on a glucose tolerance test, which measures how quickly the mice could remove excess sugar from the blood.
The obese diabetic mice shed more than 10 percent of their bodyweight, while untreated mice gained 5 percent of their weight. The reason: The treated mice ate 15 percent less and were 35 percent more active than untreated mice. Once the injections stopped, weight gain gradually resumed.
The extract improved insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, in mice with diabetes.
Cholesterol levels dropped 30 percent in the treated mice, while the extract had no detectable effect on normal mice.
Tests using ginsenoside Re alone found that it had all of the anti-diabetic but none of the obesity-fighting activities of the extract. The scientists hypothesize that ginsenoside Re may speed up sugar transport from the blood to the muscle, thereby lowering blood sugar and reducing the risk of diabetes.
The extract appears to be safe though only tests in humans can bear that out. The next steps: Finding the right dose, isolating other obesity-fighting compounds in the berry and learning more about how the compounds exert their beneficial effects.
Ginsenoside Re could serve as the basis for a whole new class of anti-diabetic medications. Once they identify all the obesity-fighting compounds contained in this plant they can develop better compounds to combat obesity and diabetes.