AN estimated one in 10 middle-aged Malaysians has diabetes. But that's not what worries experts the most. Another one in five has what doctors call "pre-diabetes".
The number of pre-diabetics is expected to climb as the nation gets older, fatter and more sedentary.
Pre-diabetics are not only at risk of developing diabetes but are also at risk of suffering heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage.
"Your risk of heart attack or stroke is two to four times higher if you have diabetes. It is 1 1/2 times higher if you have pre- diabetes," says Judith Fradkin of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases in the United States.
"Between a third and half of pre-diabetics will go on to develop diabetes within five or 10 years," says Frank Vinicor, director of the Diabetes Programme at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, USA.
Pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes usually begin with insulin resistance. Blood sugar (glucose) level in the body is regulated by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. Insulin helps to transport glucose from the blood through the cell membranes and into the cells of the body.
As long as the cell membranes remain sensitive to insulin, the shuttling of glucose to the cells occurs quickly.
When the cell membranes become insensitive to insulin (also called insulin resistance), the pancreas will have to pump out more insulin to force the glucose into the cells.
When this doesn't work, the result is high levels of sugar in the blood (considered a pre-diabetes condition).
Over time, the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin to control blood sugar and Type II diabetes develops.
Researchers now know that diabetes does not just happen. Before you get diabetes, you'd have a condition known as pre-diabetes where your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be termed diabetes.
If you are told that you fall into the pre-diabetes range, it is not such a bad news after all.
People with pre-diabetes can lower their risk of getting diabetes by nearly 60 per cent through healthy eating, regular exercise and taking supplements to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and reduce the risk of complications.
CINNAMON EXTRACT : When Dr Richard Anderson, a chemist at the US Department of Agriculture, was searching for foods that might mimic the action of insulin in controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels, he found a class of water-soluble compounds in cinnamon called Polyphenol Type-A polymers. This can help boost insulin activity about 20 fold.
Water-soluble cinnamon polyphenol Type A polymers extract is 70 per cent more effective than whole cinnamon.
BANABA EXTRACT: A number of medicinal plants from India, China and Japan are used for diabetes. One of the most effective plant compounds discovered is corosolic acid from the leaves of the banaba (Lagestroemic speciosu) tree, which exhibits antidiabetic properties.
Corosolic acid acts like insulin. The hormone that naturally increases glucose transport activity across cell membranes thus facilitates the lowering of blood sugar.
Clinical studies in the US and Japan show that corosolic acid is safe and effective in lowering blood sugar levels in pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes.
If you are at risk of pre-diabetes, take a blood test. Even if you don't consider yourself at risk, it is still advisable for those over 35 years of age to check their blood sugar levels annually.
Most of the studies on cinnamon use the water-soluble extract standardised to contain Trimeric and Tetrameric A-Type Polymer (polyphenol Type A polymer) and as for banaba, it is standardised to contain one per cent corosolic acid.