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Sumac for Diabetes

January 13, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Sometimes we eat certain foods or ingredients and don’t even realize it. This is especially true when trying dishes that aren’t a common part of our diet. Take as an example, sumac berries. Rhus coriaria or sumac is a primary component of the Middle Eastern spice blend known as zatar. You’ll often find zatar added to couscous, chicken and fish entrees, or simply sprinkled on top of fresh feta cheese, hummus or sliced tomatoes. It can also be blended into extra virgin olive oil as a flavorful dip or dressing.

No matter how familiar you are with sumac, you probably haven’t heard the latest news about its medicinal potential. In fact, the most promising study on this spice was just recently published in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences – not exactly the best known of all medical journals! But, the information contained therein may have widespread implications for anyone at risk for or living with type 2 diabetes.

Before I delve into the details of the aforementioned study, two previously published studies in 2010 and 2013 documented the antidiabetic activity of R. coriaria extracts in rats. The conclusions of the respective trials found that supplementing with sumac improved the rats’ sensitivity to insulin, lowered long and short-term blood sugar or HbA1c. Additionally, the rats given sumac showed a healthful shift in lipid profile – increased HDL or “good” cholesterol and a reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol. This latter effect is supported by two separate studies conducted in rabbits and rats with high cholesterol. Other benefits noted in these experiments include improvements in antioxidant status (catalase and SOD levels) and hepatoprotection as indicated by decreased liver enzymes. What’s more, none of the trials revealed any safety concerns.

The gold standard for scientifically evaluating any drug, food or supplement is known as a “double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study”. This takes away a lot of the chance and potential conflicts of interest that may otherwise influence study results. The one human trial examining the health effects of sumac berries is this exact type of experiment. In it, 22 diabetics were given 3 grams daily of ground sumac berries. A group of 19 diabetics were given a placebo for the sake of comparison. Blood tests were administered at the beginning and end of the 3 month study. The results of the before and after testing determined that those receiving sumac improved multiple measures of cardiovascular and diabetic health. On the cardiovascular front, higher PON1 activity (related to HDL cholesterol), reduced inflammation (hs-CRP) and oxidative stress (malondialdehyde) was documented. From the diabetic perspective, a significant decrease in insulin and insulin resistance was noted. No treatment related side effects were reported. This is very encouraging and may offer yet another natural remedy to support cardiometabolic health in diabetics, pre-diabetics and beyond. Hopefully, human research involving sumac will continue onward and answer many additional questions that no one study can fully address.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS screening of bioactive components from Rhus (link)

Study 2 – Bioactive Constituents from Harpephyllum C. Bernh. & Rhus Coriaria (link)

Study 3 – Rhus Coriaria Ameliorates Insulin Resistance in Non-Insulin(link)

Study 4 – Antidiabetic Properties of the Ethanolic Extract of Rhus Coriaria (link)

Study 5 – Lipid-Lowering Effect of Rhus Coriaria L. (Sumac) Fruit Extract (link)

Study 6 – Effects of Dietary Inclusion of R. Coriaria on Internal Milieu of Rabbits (link)

Study 7 – The Effect of Sumac (Rhus Coriaria L.) Powder on Insulin Resistance … (link)

A Few of the Over 200 Phytochemicals Found In R. Coriaria

Source: Food Chem. 2015 Jan 1;166:179-91. (link)

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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Heart Health

2 Comments & Updates to “Sumac for Diabetes”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: Another herb (milk thistle) lowers inflammation, oxidative stress in diabetics …


    Effects of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) extract supplementation on antioxidant status and hs-CRP in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial

    Aim: Diabetes is a serious metabolic disorder and oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to its pathogenesis and complications. Since Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) extract is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, this randomized clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of silymarin supplementation on oxidative stress indices and hs-CRP in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients.

    Methods: For the present paralleled, randomized, triple-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 40 type 2 diabetes patients aged 25–50 yr old and on stable medication were recruited from the Iranian Diabetes Society and endocrinology clinics in East Azarbayjan (Tabriz, Iran) and randomly assigned into two groups. Patients in the silymarin treatment group received 140 mg, thrice daily of dried extracts of Silybum marianum (n = 20) and those in the placebo group (n = 20) received identical placebos for 45 days. Data pertaining to height, weight, waist circumference and BMI, as well as food consumption, were collected at base line and at the conclusion of the study. Fasting blood samples were obtained and antioxidant indices and hs-CRP were assessed at baseline, as well as at the end of the trial.

    Results: All 40 patients completed the study and did not report any adverse effects or symptoms with the silymarin supplementation. Silymarin supplementation significantly increased superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activity and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) compared to patients taking the placebo, by 12.85%, 30.32% and 8.43%, respectively (p < 0.05). There was a significant reduction in hs-CRP levels by 26.83% (p < 0.05) in the silymarin group compared to the placebo group. Malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration significantly decreased by 12.01% (p < 0.05) in the silymarin group compared to the baseline. Conclusions: Silymarin supplementation improves some antioxidant indices (SOD, GPX and TAC) and decrease hs-CRP levels in T2DM patients. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Update: More information and support for the use of sumac in diabetic patients …


    Iran J Pharm Res. 2014 Fall;13(4):1249-55.

    The Effect of Sumac (Rhus coriaria L.)Powder on Serum Glycemic Status, ApoB, ApoA-I and Total Antioxidant Capacity in Type 2 Diabetic Patients.

    Sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) is used as an herbal remedy in traditional medicine. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of sumac (R. coriaria) on serum glycemic status, apolipoprotein (apo) B, apoA-I and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) in type 2 diabetic patients. This double blind randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted on 41type 2 diabetic volunteers randomly assigned into 3g/day sumac powder (n=22) or placebo (n=19) groups over 3 months. Blood samples were collected before and after the intervention. Serum glucose and HbA1c were measured using enzymatic and turbidimetric inhibition immunoassay methods, respectively. ApoB, apoA-I and TAC were determined using turbidimetric immunoassay and spectrophotometric methods, respectively. There were significant decreases in serum glucose and HbA1c and also apoB levels at the end of study compared with initial values (P< 0.0001, P= 0.002 and P< 0.0001,respectively). Also, there was a significant difference in HbA1c and TAC levels between placebo and sumac groups at the end of study (P< 0.05).In sumac group, there were significant increase in apoA-I and TAC(P< 0.0001) compared with initial values. The mean of differences of serum glucose, HbA1c, apoB, apoA-I, apoB/apoA-I ratio and TAC between groups were significant (P< 0.05). In conclusion, these results showed the favorite effect of sumac consumption on serum glycemic status, apoB, apoA-I and TAC levels in in type 2 diabetic patients. Be well! JP

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