Milk thistle shows benefits for those with high blood sugar

Milk thistle is derived from the plant Silybum marianum and has been widely studied in regards to liver health and more recently, its effect on blood sugar. Diabetes is associated with insulin resistance, high blood sugar, increased inflammation and oxidative stress. Research has revealed that milk thistle may be an agent to combat insulin resistance and high blood sugar, and that it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

For example, a recent randomized clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of milk thistle supplementation on oxidative stress and inflammation in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Patients received 420 mg per day of milk thistle or a placebo for 45 days.

Compared to placebo, several measures indicative of improved antioxidant status improved in the milk thistle group including increased superoxide dismutase (13%), glutathione peroxidase activity (30%), and total antioxidant capacity (8%). Malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress, decreased by 12%. C-reactive protein, a marker of systemic inflammation, decreased by 27%. This study provides evidence that short-term supplementation with milk thistle in type 2 diabetics had a beneficial effect on inflammation and oxidative stress.

Another recent randomized, controlled study in patients with type 2 diabetes showed further benefit on kidney function. Diabetic patients with nephropathy (kidney disease) received 420 mg/day of milk thistle or placebo for 3 months. The urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio, a measure of kidney function, improved more in the milk thistle group (-44%) versus placebo (-19%).

Other positive changes occurred in the milk thistle group including decreased measures of inflammation and oxidative stress. Milk thistle has been shown to have a good safety profile and thus represents a possible supplement to consider in the management of type 2 diabetes.


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