London: Asparagus, a popular vegetable, can keep diabetes at bay by helping blood sugar levels stay under control while boosting output of insulin, the hormone that helps the body absorb glucose, says a study.
Type two diabetes, which accounts for 90 percent of all diabetes cases, is emerging as a major health burden worldwide.
More than a million people are already affected by it in the UK alone but don't realise they have it, perhaps because they do not recognise symptoms such as fatigue, thirst, frequent urination, recurrent thrush and wounds that are slow to heal, the British Journal of Nutrition reported.
Left untreated, type two diabetes can raise the risk of heart attacks, blindness and amputation. But if doctors catch it early, it can be well controlled with diet and medication, according to the Daily Mail.
Once known as 'late onset' diabetes, since it only tended to strike from middle-age onwards, doctors are now beginning to see patients in their teens and twenties with the condition.
Fatty foods and unhealthy lifestyles are believed to raise the risks.
To see if asparagus could help, scientists at the University of Karachi in Pakistan injected rats with chemicals to induce a diabetic state, with low levels of insulin and high blood sugar content.
They said, "This study suggests asparagus extract exerts anti-diabetic effects."
They then treated half with an extract from the asparagus plant and the other half with an established anti-diabetic drug, called glibenclamide. The rats were fed the asparagus extract in small or large doses every day for 28 days.
Only high doses of the extract had a significant effect on insulin production by the pancreas, the organ which releases the hormone into the bloodstream.
The findings support earlier studies highlighting the benefits of asparagus.
One article published in the British Medical Journal in 2006 showed asparagus triggered an 81 percent increase in glucose uptake by the body's muscles and tissues.
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