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Thai spice helps cut blood sugar swings

In this obesity-obsessed world, the dream ingredient must be something that tastes good enough to be a condiment or flavoring and yet somehow helps us keep our weight down. Consider hydroxycitric acid (HCA), known variously as Brindle berry or Malabar tamarind, which is used in Indian and Thai food as a condiment and flavoring agent.

In Indian folk medicine as a dried powder or tea it's indicated as a laxative and for rheumatism. As Malabar tamarind, it can substitute for lime, and in Ceylon it's used along with salt to cure fish.

For HCA, though, the other half of the taste-benefit formula is much less clear. Animal studies suggest HCA may reduce food intake followed by weight loss, but no controlled human trials have shown either effect. Nevertheless, many people seem to believe HCA will help them lose weight. It's sold by vitamin and other specialty shops as Citrimax or Citrin, and is a featured ingredient in such dietetic aids as Herbalife's "Snack Defense" tablets.

A group of Dutch researchers went back to basics and studied how and if HCA affects glucose absorption, a key component of metabolism. The study, entitled "Hydroxycitric acid delays intestinal glucose absorption in rats," appears online and in the June issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society. The research was conducted by Peter Y. Wielinga, Renate E. Wachters-Hagedoorn, Brenda Bouter, Theo H. van Dijk, Frans Stellaard, Arie G. Nieuwenhuizen, Henkjan J. Verkade, and Anton J.W. Scheurink.

HCA strongly delays post-meal glucose levels, reducing insulin output

In the study, rats were administered HCA prior to "mimicking a meal by infusing sugar into the stomach," explained lead author Wielinga. "Compared with controls, which had no HCA, the test rats' rise in blood sugar was much slower, but over 2 ½ hours all the sugar was absorbed."

In addition, "HCA strongly attenuat
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Source:American Physiological Society


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