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Old infestation draped on killed trees in July - James H. Miller USDA, Forest Service: Invasive.org.

Old infestation draped on killed trees in July - James H. Miller USDA, Forest Service: Invasive.org.

I once listened to a group of pharma marketers plan how best to frame a rangy collection of symptoms into “metabolic syndrome”, so I tend to look at the literature on the subject with a jaundiced eye [no, I am not taking Xenical!].  While Type II diabetes is a serious problem, worthy of research and interventions, “metabolic syndrome” is still a little weasely as a medical concept, and some of the interventions being advocated are flakier than others [and some are probably terrific, and some others are really just an attempt to keep patent protection for blockbuster products used for many other conditions….]

But my curmudgeonly heart leapt when I read that kudzu, the vine that ate the South, might become a ‘treatment’ for the condition.  See the press release below, posted today on Eurekalert.org:

Nuisance or nutrient? Kudzu shows promise as a dietary supplement

IMAGE: Kudzu, a nuisance vine, shows promise as a dietary supplement that fights an unhealthy condition called metabolic syndrome.

Click here for more information.

Kudzu, the nuisance vine that has overgrown almost 10 million acres in the southeastern United States, may sprout into a dietary supplement. Scientists in Alabama and Iowa are reporting the first evidence that root extracts from kudzu show promise as a dietary supplement for a high-risk condition — the metabolic syndrome — that affects almost 50 million people in the United States alone. Their study appears in the current issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

J. Michael Wyss and colleagues note in the new study that people with metabolic syndrome have obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and problems with their body’s ability to use insulin. Those disorders mean a high risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases. Scientists have been seeking natural substances that can treat the metabolic syndrome. The new study evaluated kudzu root extracts, which contain healthful substances called isoflavones. People in China and Japan long have used kudzu supplements as a health food.

The study found that a kudzu root extract had beneficial effects lab rats used as a model for research on the metabolic syndrome. After two months of taking the extract, the rats had lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and insulin levels that a control group not given the extract. Kudzu root “may provide a dietary supplement that significantly decreases the risk and severity of stroke and cardiovascular disease in at-risk individuals,” the article notes.

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ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Chronic Dietary Kudzu Isoflavones Improve Components of Metabolic Syndrome in Stroke-Prone Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE:
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/jf901169y

Honestly, now: wouldn’t we get much the same effect if every person with metabolic syndrome was told to clear an acre or two of kudzu using manual gardening equipment?  Or we could split the difference and have people graze their way through the stuff….

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