Glucose is the main source of energy essential for carrying out all activities, from doing daily chores to blinking, breathing, sitting, standing, as well as keeping all systems of the body functioning.
This type of sugar is obtained by consuming carbohydrates which the body then converts to energy, in the form of glycogen (glucose) (1).
Glucose has to be regulated by the body, as excessively high levels of glucose (hyperglycemia) in the blood stream can lead to diabetes.
Diabetes can damage blood vessels, increase the chances of heart disease, stroke, lead to vision issues, nerve problems and kidney disease.
Foods like pasta, rice, potatoes, grain and processed sweets, are all high in carbohydrates.
The digestive system utilizes bile and the various enzymes it creates, to break down the starch in these carbohydrate foods, turning it into glucose.
This is then absorbed in the small intestine into the bloodstream, supplying the body with energy to carry out functions, from thinking to executing the most stressful exercises.
The Glycemic Index Measures the Effect of Food on Blood Sugar
The glycemic index rates foods according to the speed with which the carbohydrates are broken down, then raising blood sugar levels.
Foods with high glycemic index will increase blood-sugar levels quickly, while low glycemic index means the blood-sugar level of the body will rise slowly (2).
White bread and most breakfast cereals have a high glycemic index, whereas most vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts have low glycemic indexes. Glucose interacts with both the digestive system and the endocrine system.
Insulin Regulates Blood Glucose Levels
Extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and reabsorbed by the bloodstream, when the level of glucose in the blood drops.
Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas aids in maintaining normal levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is usually found to be the type that affects children and teenagers. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin and as a result excessive amounts of glucose build up in the bloodstream.
To control the sugar levels in people suffering from type 1 diabetes, injections of insulin have to be taken.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes normally affects patients, who are over 40. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either does not make enough insulin or it can’t be used as it should, thus preventing glucose from entering the cells in the body where it is used for energy, and so the glucose stays in the bloodstream where its levels continue to build up.
Normal treatment is medication is tablets to reduce blood glucose, sometimes, insulin may be required.
High blood pressure can be associated with Type 2 diabetes, so the next level of prescribed medicine, might be to reduce hypertension and lower cholesterol. Maca is beneficial for both of these problems.
Maca’s Benefits in Diabetic Patients
Maca is a vegetable belonging to the broccoli family and looks like a turnip. It is grown almost exclusively in Peru where traditionally, it has been used as a staple food, as a healing aid, also an aphrodisiac.
There are 3 varieties ranging in color from white to black, with yellow being the most common.
While maca has been linked with libido and energy, it is now believed it has a role in helping people with diabetes. While inconclusive, studies indicate that certain compounds in maca can help with controlling type II diabetes.
It is believed that maca helps with the distribution of the hormone insulin and helps cells to become more sensitive to the effects of the hormone.
This produces better control of the glucose in the blood.
Maca and the Inflammation Associated with Diabetes
Another thought suggests that maca helps to fight the inflammation which is associated with the ‘out of control’, blood sugar.
Maca is rich in antioxidants which are known to cut down on inflammation.
Additionally, it is high in fiber which might also play a small, but valid part in controlling diabetes, since dietary fiber is known to keep blood sugar levels (somewhat) under control.
Could Maca Be Used So That A Person With Diabetes Reduces Their Current Medication?
Another way maca is beneficial to diabetics is that it leads to greater endurance during exercise, and intense exercise is vital in keeping cells sensitive to insulin.
A combined program of healthy diet, exercise, use of conventional medical recommendations and supplements of maca can help diabetics lead healthier live.
Let’s be clear, maca is not a cure for diabetes.
But, some experts feel that use of maca is safe for most diabetics, and it could lead to lower dosage of their current medication.
In a two week study conducted in 2007, subjects consumed a diet of high levels of sucrose in addition to being given a supplement of maca.
It was found that maca ‘significantly improved glucose tolerance and lowered levels of glucose in the blood (3).’
More importantly, the study found that maca decreased the levels of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL), and cholesterol in addition to the triacylglycerols (TAG), in bloodstream and liver.
These are important parameters for maintaining good health.
Better tolerance of glucose leads to more stable blood glucose levels, which in turn cuts down on the chances of hypoglycaemia (low sugar levels in the blood).
When the feeling of low sugar level is reduced, hunger pangs are reduced and there is no desire to eat something.
This means one can go for longer durations without eating, a definite benefit for dieters, but more importantly, for diabetics.
Stable blood sugar levels lead to better emotional stability, which leads to better food choices, and an elimination of junk food binging.
Eliminating sudden insulin spikes in the blood means the nutrients used in insulin action like magnesium are spare, leading to improved micronutrient management.
When nutritional needs are not satisfied, there is a greater urge to eat uncontrollably.
Magnesium deficiency is thought to be a chief reason behind cravings for chocolate, a definite no-no for diabetics.
We are not suggesting that you stop taking any form of diabetes medicine, or even that you can take maca and suddenly live as someone who does not have diabetes. It would take experimentation to discover what affect maca has on your condition, then to act accordingly.