Researchers suspect that kudzu, a vine that covers millions of acres in the southeastern U.S., contains a compound that may be useful in treating metabolic syndrome, and may therefore become a source of valuable dietary supplements.
Scientists from Alabama have found evidence that a compound called puerarin regulates glucose metabolism by directing it to muscles, where it helps generate energy, and away from fat cells and blood vessels. They have also discovered that it is found in abundance in root extracts from kudzu, which has long been used as nutritious food by people in China and Japan.
The scientists arrived at the conclusion by studying animals which received kudzu extract supplementation and experienced lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin levels after a period of two months.
In the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry they wrote that kudzu root "may provide a dietary supplement that significantly decreases the risk and severity of stroke and cardiovascular disease in at-risk individuals."
Puerarin is an antioxidant isoflavone that is also believed to have protective properties against cancer, including certain types of breast and prostate cancers.
Metabolic syndrome is associated with excess body fat, high blood pressure, sugar and lipids levels. If untreated, it may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes.