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 could play an important role in curbing diabetes.
Among the 24 compounds the team identified from the product — a key ingredient in Chinese traditional medicines — 11 were first isolated by the scientists, with the compound monascin appearing to be the most effective in controlling diabetes.
Pan Tzu-ming (潘子明), a National Taiwan University professor and leader of the team, said on Wednesday that further clinical trials are being carried out on humans 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 the disease.
However, monascin is not cheap, Pan said, adding that it costs about NT$11.62 million (US$387,000) per gram.
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, Pan said.
According to government statistics, Taiwan has 1.56 million people who are being treated for diabetes.
Pan said that by 2030, the number of people who have diabetes will have reached 366 million globally, more than double the number in 2000.