With the increasing prevalence of diabetes in our society, many products are being marketed as somehow stopping, reversing or helping diabetes. I find myself walking around supermarkets taking photos of products that can “reverse my diabetes”, because if there is one fact any diabetic has to come to terms with, is that diabetes does not have a cure…yet.
So it’s true, there may not be a cure, but various natural supplements and teas have been proven to help control diabetes, both type one and type two. What’s my favorite natural supplement to help with diabetes? Yes, you guessed right, yerba mate.
Hemoglobin A1c, Glucose Levels, and Yerba Mate
A major diagnosing tool for diabetes is to look at a person’s Hemoglobin A1c, also known as HbA1c, which shows an average of blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. Being a type one diabetic this number is usually my bragging right, as a person without diabetes typically has hemoglobin A1c of 4 to 5.6%. Diabetics are aim to keep their A1c under 7%.
Unlike fasting glucose tests, HbA1c tests are able to show how a person’s blood glucose is controlled during the day. Throughout the day many different events will affect blood sugar levels, including heat, stress, exercise and diet. Of course, the largest spikes come from eating carbohydrates.
As carbohydrates are consumed, blood sugar levels rise and eventually normalize. This spike is called a glycemic index, the period of time where the glucose that has just been consumed enters the blood before insulin comes to help transport it out. A person without diabetes would have a slight spike or large spike depending on the type of carbohydrate they have consumed and the way there body is able to digest it.
Someone with either type one or type two diabetes will see a higher spike and usually a longer time before their levels are back to normal. Charts have been made to try to map the average glycemic index of many foods, but every body will react to different foods in its own way.
Controlling Glucose with Yerba Mate
The best way to keep your HbA1c down is to try to control these spikes after eating, which can be done in several different ways. Some suggest adding cinnamon to everything and others suggest drinking decaf coffee before consuming food with a high sugar content.
After living in Argentina for 4 months, the land of breads and sugars, I was able to keep my HbA1c at 6.5%, and my doctors were amazed. How did I do it? I believe the answer is regularly drinking yerba mate every morning to help control my sugar levels and decrease my glycemic index.
Published studies on yerba mate and diabetes
For many years, the only studies that had been done on yerba mate and diabetes were animal tests. Tests done on both mice and humans, showed that consumption of ilex paraguariensis, the scientific name for yerba mate tea, was a helpful tool in controlling diabetes.
Mice classified as obese and were fed a high fat diet had better glucose tolerance when consuming ilex Paraguariensis compared to when they were not. The study also revealed that yerba mate helped prevent glucose-related obesity.
It was not until 2011 that a study was actually completed on humans who had diabetes to see how their bodies reacted to regular consumption of yerba mate and the effects on their glycemic index.
The study was called, “Mate Tea ( Ilex paraguariensis ) Improves Glycemic and Lipid Profiles of Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes Individuals: A Pilot Study” and was published in The Journal of American College of Nutrition.
The study looked at 29 free living patients with type two diabetes and 29 free living patients with pre-diabetes, who were then put into three different interventions. These interventions were mate tea regimen, dietary intervention, and mate tea and dietary intervention. Patients who were on the mate drinking regimen were consuming mate three times a day for a total of 60 days. The study showed that yerba mate positively affected both type fasting blood glucose and HbA1c in patients who had type two diabetes. HbA1c levels were shown to decrease by 0.85% after 20-40 days of consuming yerba mate tea.
Both studies on animals and human trials have shown the positive effects that drinking yerba mate has on type two diabetes control. I would argue that the benefits also positively affect type one diabetics, as the yerba mate is lowering HbA1c levels by controlling the glycemic index and blood sugar levels throughout the day in the patients studied.
Notwithstanding the lifelong stuggle with diabetes, controlling one’s HbA1c can minimize the long term effects of this disease, until, of course, we are able to find a cure. As the evidence suggest, yerba mate can be a powerful aid in the treatment of diabetes.
So grab a group of friends, head to a park, and enjoy the health benefits while engaging in some good mate-filled conversation.
- Kang, Young-Rye, Hak-Yong Lee, Jung-Hoon Kim, Dea-In Moon, Min-Young Seo, Sang-Hoon Park, Kwang-Ho Choi, Chang-Ryong Kim, Sang-Hyun Kim, Ji-Hyun Oh, Seong-Wan Cho, Sun-Young Kim, Min-Gul Kim, Soo-Wan Chae, Okjin Kim, and Hong-Geun Oh. “Anti-obesity and Anti-diabetic Effects of Yerba Mate ( Ilex Paraguariensis ) in C57BL/6J Mice Fed a High-fat Diet.” Laboratory Animal Research Lab Anim Res 28, no. 1 (2012): 23. doi:10.5625/lar.2012.28.1.23.
- Klein, Graziela A., Aliny Stefanuto, Brunna C.b Boaventura, Elayne C De Morais, Luciana Da S Cavalcante, Fernanda De Andrade, Elisabeth Wazlawik, Patrícia F Di Pietro, Marcelo Maraschin, and Edson L Da Silva. “Mate Tea ( Ilex Paraguariensis ) Improves Glycemic and Lipid Profiles of Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes Individuals: A Pilot Study.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 30, no. 5 (2011): 320-32. doi:10.1080/07315724.2011.10719975.
- Swanston-Flatt, S. K., C. Day, C. J. Bailey, and P. R. Flatt. “Traditional Plant Treatments for Diabetes. Studies in Normal and Streptozotocin Diabetic Mice.” Diabetologia 33, no. 8 (1990): 462-64. doi:10.1007/bf00405106.