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Red yeast rice compound could help curb diabetes

TAIPEI -- A Taiwanese research team has published a paper in the science magazine Food & Function in which it says that a substance found in red yeast rice, or monascus, could play an important role in curbing diabetes.

Among the 24 compounds the team identified from the product —long a staple of Chinese traditional medicine — 11 were first discovered by the scientists, with the ingredient monascin appearing the most effective in controlling diabetes.

Pan Tzu-ming, a National Taiwan University professor and leader of the team, said further clinical trials on human are being carried out by National Sun Yat-sen University and the results could be available in six months.

The team discovered that monascin inhibits inflammation and improves insulin resistance, and could therefore help diabetics better control their disease.

Monascin is not cheap, however, Pan said, costing some NT$11.62 million (US$387,000) per gram.

It is possible that monascin could be used in health products to treat Alzheimer's disease or metabolism-related diseases, but it might take more than a decade to commercialize such products, he added.

According to government statistics, Taiwan has 1.56 million people being treated for diabetes.

Pan said that by 2030, the population suffering from diabetes will have reached 366 million around the world, more than double the number in 2000.

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