News Briefs

Chinese herbs show promise for diabetes prevention
A recent Cochrane review examined 16 randomised controlled trials of 15 different Chinese herbal medicines traditionally used for blood glucose control. ‘Chinese herbal medicines have been used for this purpose for a long time, so there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for their safety and effectiveness, but we were interested to find out whether scientific research could provide a basis for recommending these alternative treatments,’ says lead researcher, Suzanne Grant of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at the University of Western Sydney in Australia.

The researchers considered data from 16 clinical trials including 1,391 people who received 15 different herbal formulations. They found that the herbs generally helped lower ‘and normalise’ blood glucose levels in people with ‘pre-diabetes’. According to their findings, combining herbal medicines with lifestyle changes is twice as effective as lifestyle changes alone at normalising blood glucose levels. Trials included in the review lasted from one month to two years. No adverse effects were reported in any of the trials.

‘Our results suggest that some Chinese herbal medicines can help to prevent diabetes, but we really need more research before we can confidently say that these treatments work,’ says Grant. ‘The real value of the study is as guidance for further trials. We need to see more trials that make comparisons with placebos and other types of drugs, and better reporting on the outcomes of these trials.’

‘If people with pre-diabetes do want to try an herbal product,’ says Grant, ‘they should first consult their doctor and, ideally, take any herbs under a guidance of a health provider qualified in herbal medicine.’ In traditional Chinese medicine, herbs are recommended based on individuals’ unique situations, and not as a one-size-fits-all prescription. As far as safety, the review found no serious side effects attributed to the herbal products. However, Grant noted, like all medicines, herbs have the potential for unexpected side effects or interactions with other drugs.

Chinese Herbs

Lower GI of your baking with whole pea flour
We are often asked for tips to help people lower the GI of their baking from cakes to cookies and muffins, slices and winter warming puddings. A new study published in the Journal of Food Science suggests that that using whole yellow pea flour instead of wheat flour will certainly help.

Christopher Marinangeli
Christopher Marinangeli

PhD candidate Christopher Marinangeli, MSc, RD, of the University of Manitoba and colleagues baked banana bread and biscotti using either whole yellow pea flour or whole wheat flour as the primary ingredient. Subsequent GI testing in 19 healthy volunteers found that the whole pea flour banana bread and biscotti produced a lower glycemic response that was similar to plain boiled whole yellow peas. The whole yellow pea biscotti produced a lower glycemic response than biscotti containing whole wheat flour. The volunteers found the flavour of the banana bread and biscotti made with whole yellow pea flour acceptable.


‘We add Xanthan gum to all recipes because it creates a better texture to the final product since the pea flour lacks gluten, says Christopher Marinangeli whose team made this tiramisu using whole yellow pea flour. We are currently testing the tiramisu recipe in the GI News Kitchen and will publish it early in the new year. Meanwhile, here’s the biscotti recipe used in the study. If you use the new low GI sugar (Logicane) says GI Symbol’s Dr Alan Barclay, you will lower the GI of your baking even more!

Whole pea flour chocolate and hazelnut biscotti
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
280 g whole yellow pea flour
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 cup (200 g) white sugar
100 g hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and chopped
85 g semi sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 150ºC (350ºF) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
We know that pea flour is unlikely to be in a supermarket aisle near you right now. Chris suggests checking Asian/Indian food stores for it. Otherwise substitute with chickpea flour (besan).

For more information, contact the University of Manitoba’s Richardson Center for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, 196 Innovation Drive, Winnipeg MB, R3T 2N2 Canada.