Kudzu, an invasive vine common in the southeast United States, may have medical applications. A new animal study suggests that the weed may help treat a condition known as metabolic syndrome.
People with metabolic syndrome have three or more of following medical conditions: high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess fat around the waist and high cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Traditionally, kudzu has been used to treat high blood pressure, and some research suggests a possible benefit for insulin resistance. However, clear evidence is lacking in these areas.
In the report, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food
Chemistry, researchers tested the effects of kudzu root extract in
female rats with high blood pressure that were prone to strokes. The
rats also had symptoms of metabolic syndrome, making them suitable for
studying this condition. One group received a standard diet, while the
other received supplementation with kudzu root extract for two months.
At the end of the study, rats in the kudzu group gained less weight and
had significantly lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels, insulin
levels and total cholesterol levels compared to the control rats. The
authors concluded that kudzu "may provide a dietary supplement that
significantly decreases the risk and severity of stroke and
cardiovascular disease in at-risk individuals."
While these early findings are promising, human studies are needed to determine if kudzu is a safe and effective treatment for metabolic syndrome in people.
Ning Peng, Jeevan K. Prasain, Yanying Dai, Ray Moore, Alireza Arabshahi, Stephen Barnes, Scott Carlson and J. Michael Wyss "Chronic Dietary Kudzu Isoflavones Improve Components of Metabolic Syndrome in Stroke-Prone Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats" Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009, 57 (16):7268ö7273.
This article appeared in the September 2009 issue of the Integrative Medicine Newsletter for Natural Standard