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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Department A/Health Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on research into the ginseng berry, and how it might help fight diabetes and obesity.


CURWOOD: Coming up, a bedroom town in New Jersey reaches for a sense of community in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. First, this environmental health note with Jessica Penny.


PENNY: For thousands of years, traditional medicine has used the root of the ginseng plant to treat a variety of ailments. But people haven’t made much use of the ginseng berry. Now, a new study shows that fruit may have medicinal properties, too.

Researchers at the University of Chicago say the ginseng berry, compared to the root, had different amounts of chemicals thought to be useful. So they tested the berry’s effects on a common disease, type II diabetes.

Obese, diabetic mice were given daily injections of an extract from the berry. And after two weeks, the mice regained normal blood sugar levels. The substance also seemed to rev up their metabolisms. Their body temperatures increased, and they lost 10% of their body weight. Even their cholesterol levels went down.

The researchers are now trying to discover which chemicals in the berries were responsible for the rodents’ improvement. They say the berry might one day serve as a basis for new diabetic medications that people could drink or take as a pill. They said they had to inject the mice because these rodents were finicky eaters. Ginseng berries are said to be quite bitter. That’s this week’s health note. I’m Jessica Penny.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Mission of Burma, "Trem Two," VS (Ryko – 1985)]



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