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Living with type II diabetes? Here's how to ease your symptoms and boost heart health at the same time

by , 25 June 2013

You probably know about milk thistle's ability to protect your liver from toxic attack and the impressive research backing up this claim. Now turns out the health benefits of milk thistle don't just stop with the liver. Here's what a study has discovered about milk's thistle health benefits for type II diabetics.

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, about 150 million people have diabetes and the number is expected to top 330 million people by 2025, reports FSP Health.

And that’s why any natural method of controlling it is worth taking a closer look at.

In this case, it’s milk thistle (otherwise known as a Silybum marianum).

The link between type II diabetes and milk thistle revealed

“Some of the early research on silymarin, a concentrated extract from milk thistle and diabetes was promising, but solid evidence has only come about in the last few years,” writes Kerry Bone in Nutrition & Healing.

For example, in a trial published in 2006, treatment with 200mg of silymarin three times a day dramatically improved blood sugar control.

After four months, the average fasting blood glucose level fell by 15% in the group taking the silymarin, whereas it rose by 13% in the placebo group. And glycated haemoglobin, which is the best measure of long-term blood sugar control, fell from 7.8 to 6.8% in the silymarin group. In stark contrast, it actually rose from 8.3 to 9.5% in the placebo group.

But the benefits of milk thistle weren’t limited to just better blood sugar levels

One of the other hallmarks of type II diabetes is abnormal levels of fats in the blood, especially triglycerides.

That’s why it’s so significant that milk thistle treatment also lowered triglyceride levels by 25%. The placebo group’s triglycerides, on the other hand, rose by 12%. Cholesterol also went down by around 10% in the silymarin group.

“Another even more recent study backs up this new use for milk thistle in type II diabetes,” writes Bone.

In this trial, researchers studied the effect of the herb in patients with longstanding diabetes that wasn’t controlled well by diet or the drug glibenclamide.

This study also lasted four months and the participants in the silymarin group took 200mg a day. And like the other study, the average fasting blood glucose fell by 20% in the herbal group. Glycated haemoglobin fell by 16%. Changes in the placebo group were negligible.

The silymarin patients also, quite surprisingly, lost weight. Body mass index (BMI) values fell significantly by as much as 9%. The milk thistle appeared to cause an average weight loss of around 8kg.

But there’s even more good news from this particular trial.

Researchers found that the spike in blood glucose that occurs within four hours of a meal was flattened by a massive 37% in patients taking the silymarin, compared to a significant 19% rise in the placebo group.

The authors of the study suggest that all these benefits could be related in some way to the antioxidant properties of the herb. It may also be a result of the effect of silymarin in inhibiting a key cell-signalling chemical known protein kinase C (PKC) that’s abnormally raised in insulin resistance.

If you want to ease your diabetes with milk thistle, speak to your doctor about a suitable dosage.

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