New study proves Rooibos’ antioxidant potency in humans

A collaborative study by scientists at four international research facilities has found the first clinical evidence that drinking rooibos tea significantly increases the antioxidant capacity in human blood, thereby boosting the body’s natural defences.

The researchers in Rome and Glasgow found that the antioxidant capacity in the blood of 15 healthy volunteers peaked one hour after drinking 500ml ready-to-drink rooibos tea. Both traditional (fermented) and green (unfermented) rooibos tea had a significant effect.

“On the basis of the results of our study, we conclude that Rooibos tea is able to deliver antioxidant ingredients to the body, thereby stimulating the body’s internal redox network,” says Professor Mauro Serafini, leader of this research project and Head of the Antioxidant Research Laboratory at INRAN, a nutrition research insitute in Rome, Italy. “It is highly possible that, once absorbed in the circulatory stream, the unique ingredients of Rooibos may display other biological activities in the human body. That is why we are planning further intervention studies in humans to investigate the effect of Rooibos tea on the body’s strategy of defence to counteract the development of heart disease.”

“After an hour, the plasma antioxidant levels start to drop and that is why we recommend drinking up to six cups of rooibos spaced throughout the day for a sustained health benefit,” explains Professor Jeanine Marnewick from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She led a recent study that showed the beneficial effect of drinking six cups of rooibos a day to promote heart health.

Numerous studies over the past few decades have helped scientists to understand the complex and unique blend of antioxidants found in rooibos. They have also proved that the active compounds in rooibos are bioavailable and are metabolised (converted) in the body. The significance of the latest study is that it provides the first direct evidence that rooibos boosts antioxidant levels in the blood of healthy humans.

“This new research proves that the compounds in rooibos are potent enough to have a measurable effect on the antioxidant capacity of the blood,” says Professor Lizette Joubert, one of South Africa’s leading rooibos researchers, working on the quality and chemical composition of rooibos at South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council.

The most active antioxidant in rooibos – aspalathin – is unique to the plant species Aspalathus linearis. This fynbos plant thrives in the Western Cape’s Cedarberg region where it is commercially cultivated and wild-harvested for the production of rooibos tea.

“This study underlines the value of rooibos as a widely available and affordable source of dietary antioxidants,” comments Mientjie Mouton, chair of the Product Research Committee of the South African Rooibos Council. “It is very encouraging that leading research institutions around the world are working on rooibos and producing such promising results. There is also a great deal of work being done by local rooibos researchers and we will continue to invest in this research.”

The South African Rooibos Council invests some R1 million a year to fund research into rooibos’ health properties. This year the Council is supporting research projects at several local universities and science councils focusing on how rooibos can counter cancer and stress, as well as the link between rooibos and exercise. A project on rooibos and obesity has been approved for funding in 2011.

Summaries of the most recent rooibos studies published in top peer-reviewed scientific journals can be found on the website of the SA Rooibos Council at www.sarooibos.co.za

Notes to editors

The collaborative research was carried out at: Antioxidant Research Laboratory, Human Nutrition Unit, INRAN, Rome; Food and Nutrition Unit, IRCCS, Rome; Plant Products and Human Nutrition Group, University of Glasgow; Diabetes Unit, San Camillo Forlanini Hospital, Rome.
The study has been published in Food Chemistry: Villaño, D., et al. 2010. Unfermented and fermented rooibos teas (Aspalathus linearis) increase plasma total antioxidant capacity in healthy humans. Food Chemistry 123 (2016) 679-683.

New evidence that rooibos can protect and support the liver

A recent study at the Oxidative Stress Research Centre, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), has proven the ability of rooibos to improve liver function and protect the liver against oxidative damage.


Photo: Dr Wale Ajuwon preparing a dried green rooibos extract.

Photo: Dr Wale Ajuwon preparing a dried green rooibos extract.

6 June 2013

In this 10-week study, 80 male rats were treated with a liver-damaging chemical known as t-BHP (Tert-butyl hydroperoxide). The study showed that giving these rats access to rooibos (instead of water) helped to protect the liver against structural, enzymatic and biochemical damage, and could even reverse some of the damage already present in the liver. The findings of the study have been published in the journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”. The full scientific paper is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/984273.

“These findings provide biological evidence that Rooibos can protect the liver and that it has potential to be used as a supporting treatment for liver disorders,” says Dr Wale Ajuwon, researcher at CPUT, who led this investigation as part of his doctoral study.

“Liver diseases and drug-induced liver injuries are a leading cause of death around the world, and synthetic drugs used to treat liver disorders often cause further damage to the liver,” Dr Ajuwon points out. “That is why it is so exciting to present this evidence that rooibos can be used as a liver protector and an adjuvant therapy for the treatment and management of liver disorders.”

“Although this study was done in animals, they give us insight into mechanisms of what might be taking place in the human body and I believe that they are useful to make recommendations to people.”

Dr Ajuwon came to South Africa in 2010 to study at CPUT. Three years later he is an avid rooibos fan and is now also encouraging his friends and family in Nigeria to have at least six cups of rooibos every day. “I encourage them to drink rooibos, because it is safe and contains a plethora of polyphenolic antioxidants that have been shown scientifically to have beneficial effects,” he says.

Dr Ajuwon studied at CPUT under the leadership of Prof Jeanine Marnewick, one of South Africa’s foremost researchers in the field of rooibos and oxidative stress.

This study was funded by CPUT.

Issued by Meropa, on behalf of the SA Rooibos Council.

FEELING STRESSED? A ROOIBOS TEA-BREAK MIGHT JUST HOLD THE CURE

Researchers at Stellenbosch University have found scientific evidence in support of the ability of Rooibos extracts to counter the negative side effects of stress.

Think about how often you hear people say “I’m stressed” – a phrase that has become one of the most common clichés in modern life. With the current recession affecting most households, stress levels seem to be escalating at a galloping pace. The importance of relaxation and finding remedies to soothe away the ailments associated with stress is a no-brainer, but with the busy lives we lead these days, finding time for this is often a challenge. The good news from Rooibos? Sipping a cup of relaxing, caffeine-free Rooibos tea can do just this.

Researchers at Stellenbosch University have found scientific evidence in support of the ability of Rooibos extracts to counter the negative side effects of stress. “We have found that Rooibos extracts inhibit the biosynthesis of the stress hormone, cortisol,” says Dr Amanda Swart, senior lecturer and natural plant products researcher at the Biochemistry Department. “This is good news, as the stress we experience chronically on a daily basis leads to abnormally high cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are associated with increased anxiety, high blood pressure, suppressed immunity and diabetes.”

People don’t realise the extent to which stress plays havoc with the Central Nervous System, which links to our health, emotions, well being and the overall functioning of our body on a day to day basis. According to studies conducted in South Africa and Japan, Rooibos has shown to have a remarkable calming and soothing effect on the Central Nervous System and can play a role in relieving health problems such as insomnia, irritability, headaches, nervous tension, hypertension and stress.

It’s so ironic that when people feel stressed they often have a caffeine containing drink, but studies show that caffeine only worsens a sensitive Central Nervous System, having the opposite effect to Rooibos, which is naturally caffeine free. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, brew some Rooibos tea, savour the taste, and relax as the tea goes about doing its job – healing your body and mind.

 

ROOIBOS COMPONENT CAN PREVENT AND TREAT HEART DISEASE

Chrysoeriol, an antioxidant in Rooibos, can prevent and treat vascular disease in people. This is the latest findings from scientists in Japan where Rooibos has been extensively researched in the past 20 years.

Chrysoeriol, an antioxidant in Rooibos, can prevent and treat vascular disease in people. This is the latest findings from scientists in Japan where Rooibos has been extensively researched in the past 20 years.

Chrysoeriol is able to inhibit the migration of smooth muscle cells inside the aorta, a key cause of atherosclerosis (narrowing or hardening of the arteries), according to new findings published in the Journal of Pharmacological Science . The research was done on human aorta cells. They recommend the use of chrysoeriol to prevent and treat the repeated narrowing of blood vessels following coronary angioplasty. During angioplasty a small balloon is used to open up a blocked or narrowed heart artery.

The characteristics and bioactivity of the complex mix of compounds in Rooibos are being studied by several research groups around the world. Chrysoeriol is already known for its antioxidant, cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Although chrysoeriol is not the most abundant antioxidant in Rooibos, we are now beginning to understand its other properties that may contribute to the overall health benefits of Rooibos,” Professor Jeanine Marnewick, specialist researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology commented after reviewing these latest findings from Japan. “As scientists unravel the health contributions of the complex mix of compounds in Rooibos, we are finding more and more evidence to substantiate the traditional uses of Rooibos as a remedy for a variety of ailments.”

These latest findings follow on earlier work done at the Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan where researchers first found that the chrysoeriol in Rooibos has a bronchodilatory effect. They found that it helps to decrease muscle spasms in blood vessels and lung airways and recommended its use as a remedy for congestive airway disorders such as asthma. Their findings and recommendations were published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2006.

NOTE: Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer worldwide and in South Africa. According to data from the Medical Research Council close to 200 people die in South Africa every day as a result of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. About half of these people are younger than 65 years.

 

NEW FLAVOUR WHEEL DISCERNS INFUSED NUANCES OF ROOIBOS TEA

South African researchers have developed a flavour and mouthfeel wheel that provides 27 descriptive attributes for Rooibos tea as a tool to facilitate communication among producers, processors, grading experts, marketers, flavour houses, importers and consumers.


Many of us have taken a sip of tea and immediately been able to distinguish the taste as either good or bland, without being able to say why.  In order to go beyond simplistic distinctions and to properly discern the great many tastes and aromas that give rooibos tea its flavoured nuances, South African researchers have developed a flavour and mouthfeel wheel for the unique homegrown brew.

The novel wheel provides 27 descriptive attributes for rooibos – 20 flavour and seven taste and mouthfeel descriptors – and will be a practical tool to facilitate communication among rooibos producers, processors, grading experts, marketers, flavour houses, importers and consumers.

Image

The wheel is the work of a team including Ilona Koch, a Masters student at Stellenbosch University. Under the leadership of Professor Elizabeth Joubert of the Agricultural Research Council, (who designed the project proposal together with Stellenbosch University lecturer Ms Nina Muller), Koch and a team of researchers have spent over a year compiling data through numerous experiments with rooibos tea.

“This study was conducted to characterise and quantify the sensory attributes associated with rooibos flavour (taste and aroma) and mouth-feel to paint a more comprehensive picture of what is frequently referred to as ‘typical’ or ‘characteristic’ rooibos flavour,” said Koch.

The researchers studied 69 different rooibos samples originating from 64 different plantations in various production areas. These samples had been graded from A to D, representing the highest to the lowest tea quality respectively.

A strict protocol was followed when brewing the tea – 300g of boiling, deionised water was poured onto 5.8 g of dry tea leaves, which was infused for five minutes. The tea was strained and stored in a stainless steel thermos flask to keep the temperature constant, and 100 ml of tea was served to each taster in a white porcelain cup covered with a plastic lid to prevent evaporation and loss of volatiles. The tea cups were preheated in an oven set to 70°C, and kept in water baths with the temperature regulator set at 65°C throughout the sensory analysis session.

Nine judges took part in the study, selected on availability and interest. “Most of them had extensive experience with descriptive analysis of a wide range of products.  None of them, however, had previous experience with sensory analysis of rooibos,” said Koch.

During the first training stage the panellists were exposed to a number of rooibos samples to become familiar with the product and the evaluation protocol. During 22 one hour sessions, the 69 samples were analysed and compared to one another, and the panel generated aroma, taste and mouth-feel terminology.

Some 85 aroma and 38 taste and mouthfeel descriptors were generated at this stage, but this proved to be too large a field of data for the efficiency necessary to produce the wheel. The number of descriptors was subsequently reduced to eight aroma descriptors and nine taste and mouth-feel descriptors. A score card was developed which showed each of these 17 descriptors together with a 10cm unstructured line scale ranging from “none” to “prominent”.

After training was over, the panel used the score card to rate the intensity of the 17 attributes for each of the 69 samples during 40 sessions spread out over eight weeks.

Image

Through the research, it was uncovered that the positive sensory characteristics such as floral, woody, honey and sweet could be separated from the negative attributes such as green plant, hay-like, dusty and sour. In light of this, the descriptors were grouped according to the positive or negative impact on the quality of the sensory experience.

While the research delved into a number of experiments to deduce specific data including the effect of steam pasteurisation, the effect of particle size and the oxygen radical absorbance capacity of rooibos (ORAC), the flavour and mouthfeel wheel represents the attributes of unpasteurised rooibos infusions.

The wheel will be further updated and refined with samples from another season during the three-year project, which will run until March 2012.  It is being funded by the SA Rooibos Council and the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) that aims to boost South African industry by supporting research and technology development.

Now drinking tea will no longer be about whether it’s simply good or average, but a sensory experience akin to the tasting of wine where you will be able to indulge in the subtle tannins and fine distinctions in taste and aroma that rooibos infuses into each of its products.

Contacts:
Professor Elizabeth Joubert
Agricultural Research Council
Phone: +27 21 809 3444 – Fax: +27 21 809 3430
joubertl@arc.agric.za

 

 

New evidence proving that people can absorb the active compounds in Rooibos tea

A new collaborative study between researchers at two German universities (Leibniz University and Braunschweig Technical University) confirmed that the active compounds in Rooibos tea can be absorbed and broken down by the human body. These new findings about the bioavailability of Rooibos help scientists to understand and explain the multitude of health benefits that Rooibos tea offers, including protection against heart disease and cancer.

The researchers took blood and urine samples of 12 healthy male volunteers before and after drinking Rooibos. They found several metabolites (breakdown products) of the key antioxidants in rooibos – aspalathin and nothofagin. They also found intact aspalathin, proving that humans can absorb aspalathin into the bloodstream, even if only at low levels. Aspalathin is the major flavonoid in rooibos. It is a novel compound (found only in Rooibos), but also the most active antioxidant in Rooibos in many cases.

Scientific reference: Breiter, T., Laue, C., Kressel, G., Groll, S., Engelhardt, U.H., Hahn, A., Bioavailability and antioxidant potential of rooibos flavonoids in humans following the consumption of different rooibos formulations, Food Chemistry (2011), in press.

Available online at ScienceDirect.com

Local study examines rooibos anti-ageing potential

The pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries have long sought to restore and reverse the effects of ageing, now local scientists are investigating whether rooibos may hold some answers.

The contention that this indigenous plant could beneficial in countering the effects of time is not that far-fetched. The most accepted theory of ageing is the free-radical hypothesis. Rooibos is rich in antioxidants, which bind with free-radicals and prevent them from damaging cells.

Numerous local and international studies have proved that the antioxidants in rooibos slow down and prevent various forms of cancer, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and provide a plethora of other health benefits. There is, however, little published research on its precise molecular and cellular involvement against ageing.

Professor Maryna van de Venter of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and her colleague, Dr Trevor Koekemoer, at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University are seeking to rectify this.

Prof Van de Venter explains that one of the characteristics associated with ageing is the progressive redistribution of body fat. This results in a decrease in the subcutaneous fat (the layer just under the skin) and an expansion in abdominal fat.

Subcutaneous fat loss leads to cosmetic changes such as wrinkles, sunken eyes and skin folds. The accumulation of body fat is potentially more harmful. Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of many age-related diseases, including insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.

“In layman’s terms there’s less fat in the places where it should be and more in the places it shouldn’t, with substantial clinical consequences,” she explains.

Preadipocytes, the cells from which fat cells develop, may be the reason this happens. These represent between 15% and 50% of the cells in adipose (fat) tissue and consequently are likely to have a significant influence on its growth and function.

Recent studies have shown that over time preadipocytes lose their ability to multiply and develop into mature fat cells. Although scientists are not yet sure why this happens, they believe inflammation of the fatty tissue, oxidative stress and the introduction of factors which prevent the cells from dividing may contribute.

Prof Van de Venter’s research will investigate the potential influence that the antioxidants contained in rooibos may have on these molecular mechanisms thought to cause preadipocyte dysfunction. Preventing this may slow or even reverse age-related adipose redistribution and associated cosmetic changes and health risks.

The findings will contribute to our understanding of the health benefits of rooibos and provide much-needed scientific evidence to substantiate its anti-ageing properties, beyond what is already known about its antioxidant capacity.

 

Enjoy Rooibos – red or green – as both offer health benefits

Green Rooibos tea has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional Rooibos, but recent studies are proving that both kinds of Rooibos protect against a range of diseases, and that drinking green Rooibos is not necessarily better.


Prof Jeanine Marnewick has been involved in Rooibos research for more than 15 years

Prof Jeanine Marnewick has been involved in Rooibos research for more than 15 years.

“People should drink the kind of Rooibos they enjoy most, since we now know that Rooibos with a higher-antioxidant content does not always provide the best benefits,” recommends Professor Jeanine Marnewick, manager of the Oxidative Stress Research Centre in the Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Professor Marnewick, who has been actively involved in Rooibos research over the last 15 years, explains that it is not only the level of antioxidants, but also the specific combinations of bio-active compounds in Rooibos that are important. “The health benefits from drinking Rooibos tea will also be different for every person – depending on your overall health status,” she adds.

Scientists are still busy unravelling the complex pathways whereby the active compounds in Rooibos can play a role in disease prevention, but several studies done on skin, liver, heart and oesophagus models, researchers have shown that traditional rooibos offers similar (and sometimes even better) health properties compared to green Rooibos.

Researchers at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology found that both traditional and green Rooibos were able to protect and aid recovery of hearts tissue in rats following damage of the heart .

A recent study at South Africa’s Medical Research Council showed that green and traditional Rooibos could play a significant role in preventing or slowing done cancer of the oesophagus .

A collaborative study in Europe showed that both green and fermented Rooibos significantly increases the antioxidant capacity in human blood, thereby boosting the body’s natural defences.

In an earlier study on skin cancer in mice researchers at South Africa’s Medical Research Council Found that traditional rooibos was even more effective than green rooibos at inhibiting cancer.

Much like making wine, making a good quality Rooibos tea is both a science and an art. The characteristic colour and flavour of Rooibos tea develops when enzymes that occur naturally in the plant turns the shredded green tea leaves reddish brown. This happens on the tea court while the moist tea is slowly dried in the sun. When making green Rooibos, this step is skipped and the tea is dried as soon as possible in order to inactivate the enzymes in the plant and retain the green colour in the dried leaves.

Researchers optimistic about anti-diabetic potential of rooibos

Cape Town, South Africa – With World Diabetes Day in sight on 14 November, new evidence of the anti-diabetic potential of Rooibos has emerged …

Cape Town, South Africa – With World Diabetes Day in sight on 14 November, new evidence of the anti-diabetic potential of Rooibos has emerged from a study conducted jointly at the Diabetes Discovery Platform from South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) Infruitec-Nietvoorbij Institute. Researchers found that an aspalathin-enriched extract of green Rooibos is able to lower raised glucose levels in the blood of diabetic rats. Aspalathin is a unique antioxidant found in nature only in the Rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis). When combined with rutin, another key compound in Rooibos tea, the glucose-lowering action was further enhanced.

Working with diabetic rats, the researchers were able to show that the Rooibos extract could achieve a glucose lowering effect comparable to known diabetic drugs.

“Our work confirms the constituents present in Rooibos could prove beneficial in the fight against diabetes,” says Doctor Johan Louw of the MRC who led the study. “We believe that Rooibos can provide a basis to develop a standardised anti-diabetic product and in a country like South Africa, where a large section of the population relies on herbal medicines, such a product could be of huge value.”

“We have also confirmed that the polyphenols in complex mixtures, such as Rooibos tea, work synergistically to achieve favourable health effects,” Louw explains. “This points to the value of drinking the ‘whole’ tea containing the required amount of these beneficial constituents, rather than a tablet containing just one of the compounds.

“Our Rooibos research to date focused mostly on the antioxidant activity of Rooibos, but this evidence of its ability to lower blood glucose levels opens up new and exciting possibilities for this unique South African herb” says Prof Lizette Joubert of the ARC who collaborated on this project. “We now need to dig deeper to determine the optimal combination and ratio of the active compounds such as aspalathin and rutin in controlling blood glucose levels, and also to understand the exact mechanisms involved.” Follow-up studies indicated that other compounds are also important.

The study has been published online on 19 October 2012 in the Journal of Phytomedicine. (http://www.phytomedicinejournal.com/article/S0944-7113(12)00320-0/abstract)

This Rooibos and diabetes study was funded jointly by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council, with contributions to post-doctoral fellowships from the Department of Science and Technology. Prof Stephen Fey from the University of Southern Denmark also collaborated on the study.

Notes for editors

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 439 million people will have diabetes by 2030, with the major increase occurring in developing countries.

Rooibos takes the fight to diabetes

World Diabetes Day, held annually in November, aims to raise global awareness of the disease and what can be done, in many cases, to prevent it. A team of South African researchers has released results of a promising study that involves the beneficial effect of rooibos on blood sugar levels.

The rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis), a member of the legume family and indigenous to South Africa, is known for its health-boosting properties. Rooibos is usually made into a tea – or more correctly, a tisane, as it is a non-caffeinated beverage – that has various healthful effects ranging from antioxidant properties to a calming effect and a good night’s sleep.

Scientific studies with animals and to a lesser degree, with humans, have shown that rooibos can also restore immune function and generally improve the immune system. In a UK study, rare poison dart frogs that were reared from tadpoles in a rooibos-infused liquid became resistant to fungal infection. This is because the antioxidants in rooibos have anti-fungal properties as well, according to the frog research team.

Now new evidence has emerged that rooibos can combat diabetes in rats and, with more research, possibly humans. Results of the study were published on 19 October in the online version of Phytomedicine journal, under the title Acute assessment of an aspalathin-enriched green rooibos extract with hypoglycemic potential.

The study was a joint effort between the Diabetes Discovery Platform from South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) Infruitec-Nietvoorbij Institute, with the help of the National Research Foundation.

“Although we have started off with small animals,” says team leader Dr Johan Louw of the MRC, “the next step is to take our research to human patients – provided we can secure funding.”

Louw explains that, as the research models are designed to simulate what is seen in humans, he is confident that the team will be able to duplicate the rat results. He clarifies that people with diabetes type one, which is controlled with insulin, won’t see a benefit but that type two patients, who control their condition largely through diet, will.

“Our focus as scientists is the promotion of healthy lifestyles and a healthier population, not just in South Africa but all over the world – so don’t hesitate to drink that cup of rooibos as part of a good diet,” he says. “Obviously you can’t do anything about your age or your family history, but there are certain factors that you have control over, such as your eating habits or your level of activity.”

World Diabetes Day is an initiative of the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation. The date, 14 November, celebrates the birthday of Canadian Nobel laureate Frederick Banting, who is credited with the life-saving discovery of insulin, along with his colleague Charles Best.

Rooibos health benefits

The diabetes study was carried out with extracts of green rooibos, prepared by Prof Lizette Joubert of the ARC and analysed by the MRC. Green rooibos is the unoxidised version of the amber-coloured tea available widely in South African shops and increasingly around the world.

“Rooibos has many compounds, which have different effects at different concentrations, but the two we are interested in for this study are aspalathin, which is found exclusively in rooibos, and rutin,” says Louw. “The extracts were enriched with the two compounds. On its own, rutin has no effect while aspalathin has a slight effect, but when they are combined the results are remarkable.”

The South African Rooibos Council reports that green rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants – one of which is aspalathin – than normal rooibos, but that both are proven to be beneficial.

Monitored over a period of six hours, the two test compounds together succeeded in lowering the blood glucose level of the rats. In humans this could have the same effect as drugs that are currently available.

“We are the first in the world to show this effect from rooibos extract,” said Louw.” Rooibos has no side effects for most people and drinking it can only have a positive effect.”

For the millions of South Africans who have the condition, this is good news.

The Rooibos Council is involved with several MRC projects as a funder. They include the impact of rooibos on weight loss; the role of rooibos in preventing tissue damage during exercise; the influence of rooibos on the biosynthesis of cortisol, known as the stress hormone; and an investigation into the cancer prevention properties of the plant.

Raising awareness

Diabetes will affect 439-million people around the world by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation. Currently some 6.5-million South Africans have diabetes, although experts feel that number may be under-reported.

The disease develops when the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that enables cells to absorb glucose from the blood and convert it into energy.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and diabetes arises when production is halted or is slowed, or the body becomes resistant to the insulin that is produced. The condition falls into two main categories – types one and two – although there are other smaller categories such as gestational diabetes which can sometimes occur during pregnancy.

Diabetes type one is a result of non- or under-production of insulin, while type two occurs when the body becomes resistant to the hormone. The first type can only be treated with insulin administration while the second can be managed through diet and exercise, and with extra medication when necessary.

Symptoms include weight loss, thirst, frequent urination and fatigue coupled with blurry vision, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, recurring infections of the skin, mouth and bladder, and wounds that are slow to heal.

Testing can be done on blood or urine samples at a clinic, doctor or pharmacy. However, healthy living can prevent a multitude of conditions, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes type two.