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Rooibos can have radical benefits

Rooibos tea could reduce the risk of “type 3” diabetes – a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease

November is World Diabetes Awareness Month, which focuses on raising awareness of the signs, symptoms and prevention of this condition.

According to a statement released by the SA Rooibos Council, researchers at Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in the USA found a link between a relatively new form of diabetes, known as type 3 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

As with all types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the health of the brain over a period of time, but now scientists have discovered a strong connection between the disease and insulin resistance in the brain – also referred to as type 3 diabetes.

Prof. Christo Muller, chief specialist scientist at the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), describes Alzheimer’s as a neurodegenerative disease in the elderly, which involves the progressive loss of nerve cells and connections.

“Types 1 and 2 diabetes are typically characterised by hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) whereas type 3 diabetes is a more complex disease that has its origin in the central nervous system.

“Many type 2 diabetics have deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid in their pancreas, which is similar to the protein deposits found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s sufferers. According to research published in the World Journal of Diabetes, this increases type 2 diabetics’ risk of Alzheimer’s disease by between 50% and 65%,” says Muller.

Current research suggests that rooibos has the potential to delay or prevent the onset and progression of type 2 diabetes; however, its effect on the associated risk of type 3 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease still needs to be elucidated.

Muller says that phenolic compounds present in rooibos enhance the body’s antioxidant defences, helping to fight a variety of oxidative stress-induced conditions. “The brain is one of the organs most sensitive to oxidative stress, and long-term exposure to increased levels of free radicals causes damage to neural cells. Dietary antioxidants, such as those found in rooibos, could thus protect vulnerable neurons against the impact of oxidative by-products.

“Rooibos tea is a rich source of dietary antioxidants, including flavonoids such as dihydrochalcone glucoside, aspalathin and nothofagin. Aspalathin, in particular, helps to modify hormones in the body and reduces the output of adrenal hormones specifically, thus reducing stress and helping to inhibit metabolic disorders,’’ says Muller. Their research at the SAMRC found that an aspalathin-enriched extract of green rooibos was particularly effective at lowering raised blood glucose levels in diabetic rats.

“Rooibos, in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, is certain to benefit everyone,” concludes Muller.

For more information, visit www.sarooibos.co.za.

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