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Researchers Find Kudzu, the Vine That Ate The South, Loaded With Health Benefits

Friday, October 02, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: kudzu, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Kudzu, first introduced to the U.S. in l876 when the Japanese government brought the vine for a garden display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, is often called the vine that ate the south. You'll understand why if you drive down country and even some suburban roads in Georgia, Alabama and other southern states -- there's no way you'll miss seeing thick kudzu vines winding to the top of mighty oaks, wrapping around telephone poles and covering countless hills and roadsides. To put it mildly, kudzu is a kind of Godzilla of nuisance weeds. But in Asia, it has long been known as a traditional medicinal plant.

Now scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have found traditional healers in Japan and China may have been right all along. Research just published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggests the so-called weed could actually be a source of natural health benefits. It may be of particular value in treating metabolic syndrome, a condition that affects 50 million Americans.

According to the National Institutes of Health, metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors linked to being overweight or obese that increases the risk for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke. And the UAB research team's studies on animal models show that natural chemicals called isoflavones found in kudzu root could improve a host of problems associated with metabolic syndrome. For example, it normalizes blood pressure, lowers high cholesterol and stabilizes blood glucose. One particular isoflavone called puerarin that is only found only in kudzu appears to have the strongest beneficial effect on health.

"Our findings showed that puerarin helps to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol," J. Michael Wyss, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB Department of Cell Biology and lead author on the study, said in a statement to the press. "But perhaps the greatest effect we found was in its ability to regulate glucose, or sugar, in the blood."

Too much glucose in the blood is linked to both diabetes and obesity and can be a symptom of metabolic syndrome. According to Dr. Wyss, puerarin has the remarkable ability to regulate glucose by driving it to places in the body where it is beneficial, like muscles, and away from fat cells and blood vessels.

Dr. Wyss and the other UAB researchers added small amount of kudzu root extract to the diets of laboratory rats for about two months. Then they compared this group of rodents to a control group of rats who didn't get the kudzu supplementation. The rats who had consumed kudzu extract had lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin levels. What's more, there were no side effects found from kudzu.

"Puerarin, or kudzu root, may prove to be a strong complement to existing medications for insulin regulation or blood pressure, for example," Jeevan Prasain, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and a study co-author, said in the press statement. "Physicians may be able to lower dosages of such drugs, making them more tolerable and cheaper."

Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.

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