Saturday, August 29, 2009

When a Bad Plant Goes Good

Kudzu, the invasive southeastern plant that is the object of intense research on how best to kill it, may actually contain a substance that could help some 50 million people in the United States suffering from metabolic syndrome.

The roots of the plant, which has overgrown almost 10 million acres in the Southeast U.S. and is known as"the vine that ate the South," contain isoflavones, which are widely used as a health supplement in China and Japan.

In a study done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, kudzu root extract was fed to lab rats that are used to model metabolic syndrome in humans. Metabolic syndrome is a widespread condition that leads to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and problems regulating insulin.

After feeding the kudzu extract to the rats for two months, the researchers noted that the rats had lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and better insulin levels than a control group not given the extract.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, concluded that long-term, regular use of the kudzu extract could have the same beneficial effects in people, decreasing the "risk and severity of stroke and cardiovascular disease."

By Jim Dawson
Inside Science News Service
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