Milk thistle, a member of the daisy family, has a long history of use in herbal medicine traditions for the treatment of liver disorders. Milk thistle seeds contain a polyphenol antioxidant compound called silymarin. Scientific research has yielded some promising results for the use of milk thistle in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Consult your doctor before using milk thistle to treat diabetes.
Milk thistle extract improves diabetes-associated kidney problems, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of the journal “Renal Failure.” In the study, diabetic laboratory animals consumed either silymarin, an active compound in milk thistle, or whole milk thistle extract containing all chemical components of milk thistle, for four weeks. Both groups showed decreased levels of creatinine, a marker of kidney function that is elevated when there is stress on the kidneys. Researchers also observed increased activity of the antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase, implying that milk thistle improved kidney function and imparted a protective effect on kidney health.
Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
A study published in the journal “Phytotherapy Research,” December 2006, found that silymarin extract of milk thistle improved blood sugar management in Type 2 diabetics. Participants in the study, all with Type 2 diabetes, took 200 mg of silymarin three times per day for four months. Researchers observed that silymarin provided antioxidant benefits and improved HgbA1c levels — a measure of blood sugar over several months preceding the test. Silymarin also lowered fasting blood sugar levels, decreased total cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein, LDL, the bad form of cholesterol. Additionally, liver enzymes decreased, a sign of less stress on the liver.
Milk thistle’s liver-protective properties may offer particular benefits to diabetic patients who have insulin resistance because of liver damage, according to a study published in the October 2001 issue of the journal “Diabetes Spectrum.” Milk thistle improves liver function by preventing toxins from binding to liver cells. Milk thistle also restores levels of the antioxidant glutathione, acts as an antioxidant to protect against free radical damage and increases protein production in the liver, which promotes liver regeneration. Milk thistle’s liver protective effects prevent oxidation of lipids, a degenerative process to which diabetics are susceptible. Reducing levels of malondialdehyde, a byproduct of lipid oxidation, can help prevent diabetic complications.
The authors caution that doses of milk thistle exceeding 1,500 mg per day may cause diarrhea due to increased bile flow.
Various Health Benefits
Aside from its traditional use as a liver-protective herb, milk thistle may offer anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and heart-protective benefits, according to a study published in the June 2007 issue of the journal “Integrative Cancer Therapies.” Scientific studies on patients with diabetes have yielded promising results and the safety profile of milk thistle is high. New information on dosage levels of milk thistle for conditions such as cancer and diabetes has emerged along with improved standardization and quality.
Health-e-Solutions comment: The liver is critically important to #BloodSugarControl. Fatty liver disease is on the rise and is strongly associated with diabetes. Consult your doctor before using milk thistle to treat diabetes, but we think it can be a great supplement to take if there is any indication of liver disease. It is also helpful as a detoxing treatment to clean the liver of heavy metals and thereby improve liver function.
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