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Can lemon balm help manage type 2 diabetes mellitus?

Lemon balm is a plant that may have antidiabetic and cardiovascular effects. This study explored how it impacts glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes.

Study under review: Efficacy of Melissa officinalis L. (lemon balm) extract on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial

Introduction

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that is the result of insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction. Some of the metabolic disturbances that may occur in type 2 diabetes include impaired glucose metabolism, dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of fat in the bloodstream), and hypertension. There are a panoply of therapeutic options aimed at treating each of these. For example, with regard to lipids, statin therapy lowers cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase[1], while fenofibrate can help lower triglycerides via activation of PPAR-alpha[2] and lipoprotein lipase[2]. As you can see in Figure 1, the pharmaceutical metformin primarily targets glucose metabolism through AMPK[3], but may also act through non-AMPK pathways, too. However, very few interventions are designed to target multiple mechanisms at once.

Exercise is one intervention that can target multiple mechanisms simultaneously (e.g. AMPK[4] and PPAR-alpha[5]). In addition to exercise, there are many natural compounds that target several mechanisms at once and may provide benefit for many factors of the metabolic disturbances present in diabetes. Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a plant that shows anti-diabetic effects as well as possibly having lipid lowering properties. Previous research in animals and cell culture has shown that lemon balm lowers blood glucose and blood lipids[6] in rodents, and activates GLUT4[6] (one of the main glucose uptake proteins) and PPAR-gamma[6] (a regulator of fatty-acid metabolism), key genes that are directly involved in these processes. Lemon balm has also been shown to directly reduce fatty acid synthesis[6].

Despite the pre-clinical data showing promise for lemon balm having anti-diabetic properties, there is a paucity of data on the effect of lemon balm in people with type 2 diabetes. The present study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial assessing the impact of lemon balm on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk markers in people with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease, which often goes hand-in-hand with other metabolic disturbances, such as dyslipidemia and hypertension. Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a plant that can target many of these features of diabetes. The present study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial on the effect of lemon balm on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes.

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Other Articles in Issue #52 (February 2019)