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Olive Leaf Extract & Diabetes

By Linda Tarr Kent

Olive leaf extract has a theoretical benefit for people with diabetes because it has blood-sugar lowering properties. However, taking it at the same time as your diabetes medicine may prove dangerous. Always consult a health-care professional before trying a new supplement – especially if you have a health condition such as diabetes.

Use

Whether olive leaf can be effectively used to treat diabetes in people remains far from clear, according to the American Pharmaceutical Association’s “Practical Guide to Natural Medicines,” by Andrea Peirce. Animal studies show that olive leaf extract can reduce blood-sugar levels in subjects with chemically induced diabetes. However, benefits found in animal studies don’t always translate to benefits for people.

Antioxidant Factor

In addition to hypoglycemic, or blood-sugar lowering, effects, olive leaf extract may provide antioxidant action that benefits people with diabetes, according to a 2006 study on rabbits in “Life Sciences.” Olive leaf’s active constituent, oleuropein, may reduce oxidative stress associated with diabetes. This may help to prevent diabetic complications that oxidative stress plays a role in such as eye, kidney and nerve problems, note study authors H.F Al-Azzawie and M.S. Alhamdani. A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” theorizes that the antidiabetic effect of oleuropein and a second substance found in olive, hydroxytyrosol, may be due to the antioxidant activity of these substances.

Bioavailability

Oleuropein is highly bioavailable, meaning your body is able to absorb and use it well. It also appears to be absorbed rapidly after it is consumed, according to a 2010 scientific review published in “Scientia Pharmaceutica.” Sometimes, substances that appear promising in laboratory studies are ineffective due to poor bioavailability.

Warnings

If you are diabetic use olive leaf extract with care and only under your doctor’s supervision. Using it along with diabetes drugs can raise your risk for hypoglycemia, meaning blood-sugar levels that fall too low. Using it with other herbs or supplements that lower blood-sugar can magnify effects. These include devil’s claw, psyllium, ginseng and garlic. Olive leaf may irritate your stomach lining, so it always should be ingested along with food.

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