Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in the country. National body Diabetes Australia says the condition is the “epidemic of the 21st century” and the biggest challenge confronting our health system.

University of Sydney researchers are hopeful they’ve found a way to stop the disease in its tracks. They’re conducting a trial to see if taking two “commonly used over-the-counter natural medicines” could prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes.

Two million Australians already have pre-diabetes

The study is focused on patients who have what’s called pre-diabetes which is diagnosed when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes.

Diabetes Australia predicts one in six Australians suffer from the precursor condition and many don’t even know they have it.

“They don’t have any symptoms,” lead researcher Doctor Nick Fuller explained to 9 News.

“They’re unaware of the fact that they suffer from the condition and it’s picked up by simply having a blood sugar level test.”

Supplements expected to help with weight loss and blood sugar control

Dr Fuller and his team will recruit 400 volunteers in this high-risk category that includes patients who are:

  •  Not physically active
  •  Have high triglycerides (dietary fats) and low HDL-C (good cholesterol) or high total cholesterol
  •  Have high blood pressure
  •  Have a family history of type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease.

Over 12 months participants will take dietary supplement Nuvexa and a herbal remedy called GINST15 that contains an active ingredient in ginseng.

Nuvexa is a natural medicine containing a fibre derived from corn. Its creators claim it has the following benefits:

  •  Binds with dietary fat to help reduce weight
  •  Keeps cholesterol levels down
  •  Increases insulin sensitivity.

When it comes to GINST15, Dr Fuller explained “the root of ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, most recently for improving glycaemic control”.

“If proven to be effective, these supplements will offer a low-cost and safe option for the prevention of type 2 diabetes without having to intervene with pharmaceutical or traditional medicine,” he said.

“And most importantly, complementary medicine may offer a solution towards reducing the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the first place.”

Participants advised to undergo lifestyle overhaul

The pills aren’t expected to work on their own. Patients will be asked to make lifestyle changes including:

  •  Eating a healthier diet
  •  Exercising regularly
  • Drinking less alcohol
  •  Quitting smoking.

“Participants will receive … weight loss advice from a team of dietitians and exercise physiologists,” Dr Fuller said.

“They will also undergo regular medical monitoring including blood tests and full-body composition scans to measure the amount of muscle and fat in the body, as well as cognitive function testing and grocery vouchers towards the purchase of food.”

Researchers are still looking for participants aged between 18 and 70 but you have to be living in Sydney to sign up. The results of the trial are expected to be published in 2018.