You may be suffering from Syndrome X if you…
- Feel sluggish after eating
- Gain a pound here and there and have trouble losing it
- Are still hungry after a meal
- Feel tired and sluggish regardless of how much you sleep
- Crave sweets, breads, or other carbohydrates
America is getting fatter… and it’s due to Syndrome X
The American waistline has been a hot topic lately. It’s been all over the news. For instance, an article1 in the Sacramento Bee (California) discussed a study that predicted obesity caused by poor diet and lack of physical activity would soon surpass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death.
Stanford medical researcher Dr. Gerald Reaven coined the name Syndrome X in 1988. He used it to describe a group of symptoms that consist of insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low levels of “good” lipoproteins, and the spare tire that may be forming around your middle. (Doctors and medical researchers call this condition “abdominal obesity.”)4 Other symptoms of Syndrome X include low metabolic levels of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, an important male hormone), antioxidant vitamins, and high levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”).56
Syndrome X adds pounds to your body and inches to your waistline. And far, far worse, it takes years off your life.
Your weight gain may be a natural consequence of our “unnatural” lifestyle
It used to be our recent ancestors ate far more whole grains. A soda was a once or twice a week treat. They didn’t super-size their orders. And, our forebears spent a substantial part of their day doing physical work. Their lives were simpler, more physical, and less stressed. They didn’t have to make the choice of going to the health club or finally slowing down and relaxing at the end of the day.
Not so for us. You rush out of the house in the morning gulping down a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel. Not many calories there, so what’s the harm? Then at the end of a busy, stressful day, you might not have the time for the visit to the gym. So you go home and throw together an easy, quick, low-fat microwaveable meal. There’s just a little bit of rice in it, so where are the carbs?
Well, many prepared meals have tons of hidden carbohydrates. A single serving (a miniscule one at that) will have 30 to 50% or more of your recommended daily allowance.
So the carb count adds up…and so does the slight bulge around your middle. It’s all part of middle age, right?
Yes, it is. Syndrome X can start very early in many people, but its effects usually start showing up in middle age. It may take as long as 40 years until detectable symptoms result. By that time, though, it is crucial to act before the symptoms become life threatening. Some doctors estimate that as many as two-thirds of Americans may be suffering from the consequences of Syndrome X.
Insulin holds the key: Health and longevity…or getting Syndrome X
When you eat a whole grain wheat, bagel, French fries, ice cream, or any other carbohydrate, your digestive system converts the starches and complex sugars into glucose, a simple sugar your body uses for energy. (Glucose is used as the energy for every metabolic process.)
The glucose is absorbed into your bloodstream. With the rise in your “blood sugar,” your pancreas then begins releasing insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin is an amazing hormone that regulates the metabolism and storage of blood sugar. Excess glucose not immediately needed for running your cells is turned into a sugar polymer called glycogen that’s stored in your liver and muscle tissue. Glycogen is your body’s spare fuel. It’s quickly converted back into usable glucose when those levels drop. The resulting glucose circulates in your bloodstream to be used as needed.
This is a beautiful, balanced feedback system when it works properly and the pancreas secretes the correct amount of insulin. This system regulates your appetite, growth hormone, cholesterol (“good” and “bad” levels), and fluid levels. When it’s working properly, the pancreatic/insulin system keeps everything in good balance. When it isn’t…
When your pancreas gets overloaded… Syndrome X takes control of your life
A diet even moderately high in refined carbohydrates and sugars triggers Syndrome X. These foods trigger a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Your pancreas responds by secreting increasingly higher levels of insulin. The more carbs you eat, the more your body pumps out insulin to deal with the high blood sugar.
After a while, your body starts responding more slowly to the overwhelming insulin levels. Glucose is not carried into cells when it’s needed. Instead it gets shuffled into the long-term energy storage system where it is converted into fat.
To make matters worse, high insulin levels cause your hypothalamus (the master gland) to send you hunger pangs!7 This slow response builds into a full-fledged insulin resistance, which is the core problem behind Syndrome X.
Stop starving yourself into obesity
Syndrome X puts you into a hamster’s wheel of frustration. Renowned naturopath David Shefrin, N.D. states, “Many cases of obesity are due to an imbalance of the hormone insulin. If insulin is not rapidly cleared from the bloodstream after a meal, it will cause an individual to feel hungry. Usually, high insulin will signal the body to stop eating, but if a person has chronically elevated glucose levels due to inefficient insulin, he may eat more.”8
The more refined carbohydrates you eat, the hungrier you get and the less effective your metabolism is in dealing with the carbs. You can be starving yourself on as few as 800 calories a day, and you will still gain weight!9 Unchecked, Syndrome X may lead to adult onset diabetes. Syndrome X also leads to extremely high levels of free radicals, which damage cells and can cause premature aging. There is stunning research evidence that an out of control pancreatic system and Syndrome X can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and some types of cancers.10
High insulin levels make you age prematurely
Syndrome X (insulin resistance) does more than make you fat. It makes you grow older faster…and it can kill you.
For almost thirty years, biologist Anthony Cerami has been studying what happens physiologically when elevated blood sugar levels stay high. He discovered that chronically high blood glucose is the major trigger in a chemical process that produces what are called “advanced glycosylation end products” or AGEs.11 In this process, glucose cross-links with more complicated molecules like lipids and proteins.
The production of AGEs, which normally increases with age, eventually leads to damaging responses within your body. This cross-linking inflicts serious damage to cell membranes and collagen fibers.
AGEs lead to the stiffening of connective tissue (which translates to sore, stiff joints and joint pain), reduced flexibility and permeability of tissues and cells, and a breakdown of cellular communications and repair processes. Eventually, your body tissues become irreversibly transformed. Put simply, the inevitable result is disease, aging, and finally death.
Control Syndrome X and your insulin levels and you hold the key to slowing down this cross-linking process
The solution to Syndrome X seems simple: Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. Right? Almost. A low-carb diet is a good start, but…
You can control your insulin levels much better with specific supplementation
After years of being criticized and branded “natural health kooks”…after years of being accused of worsening and not improving people’s health…those of us who’ve advocated low carbohydrate diets have been proven right.
Now, many of the very same physicians who branded low-carb diets as health threats are recommending them to their patients who show symptoms of Syndrome X.
And the patients like the diets—at least at first. Take Sam, for example. As he started to develop a bit of a mid-life, mid-body spare-tire, he started on one of the more popular low-carb diets.
“Hey,” he said, “the diet said I could eat steak and drink whiskey. Now that’s a diet I can get behind.”
And he did. As advised in the diet, after a while he had added small amounts of carbohydrates—a small potato, brown rice, or a bowl of fruit. But about 5 months into the diet, steak wasn’t as special as it used to be. The memory of the satisfying taste of carbs beckoned to him and he admitted to occasionally cheating. “Occasionally” turned into “frequently” and frequently turned into no more low-carb diet.
Sam’s fate was typical of many people on low-carb diets. He ended up kicking himself for his “weak willpower.”
Willpower really has little to do with maintaining a successful low-carb diet
Carbs are tasty and they’re an entrenched part of our life. And as seen above, carbs can be addictive. Unless you’re able to counteract the effects of Syndrome X, the more carbs you eat, the more you crave them. So once you start to slip off your low-carb diet, you slide down a slippery slope.
Think back to how insulin controls sugar and carbohydrate metabolism and how Syndrome X interferes with that control. The real key to controlling Syndrome X and to long-term, steady weight control is not eliminating or severely restricting carbohydrates in your diet. The real key is stabilizing sugar and insulin levels.
Fortunately for those of us on a life-long battle of the bulge, it’s easy to stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels…if you’re willing to combine some age-old wisdom with some important modern scientific research.
Look to cultures that don’t suffer from Syndrome X for anti-syndrome supplements
Something like Syndrome X has probably always been with mankind, but it was not the major health problem it is now. Syndrome X really is a modern disease rooted in our affluent society.
Almost every ethnic group or culture on the planet has a diet based on carbohydrates. But as long as they maintain their ancient cultural diets, Syndrome X is not a significant health problem. The list is noteworthy and includes the Philippines, the Amazon, East Africa, Asia, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and India, to name just a few. When people from these cultures abandon their traditional diets, they, too, become victim to Syndrome X.12
The diets of these cultures are as varied as the cultures themselves. However, medical researchers are discovering common herbal factors that appear to be responsible for the low incidence of Syndrome X and diabetes in these cultures. This research into natural herbal supplements is being complimented by research into other natural approaches to controlling Syndrome X and insulin and blood sugar levels.
You can benefit from their discoveries by adding some of the most effective anti-Syndrome X herbs and supplements to your health regimen. By using these supplements, with a sensible diet and a minimal increase in your activity levels, you can go back to enjoying carbohydrates.
Each one of the supplements described below has been proven effective in controlling Syndrome X and the out-of-whack blood sugar and insulin levels that come with it. But effective weight control means nothing if it isn’t safe. Each of these natural approaches has also been proven to be safe and side-effect free.
Ivy Gourd (Coccinia indica): lower blood sugar levels and improve your lipid profiles
A simple member of the cucumber family that grows as a weed all over the world has been used in India for hundreds of years to stabilize blood sugar levels. The plant is Coccinia indica (ivy gourd), and it should be one of the weapons in your anti-Syndrome X arsenal.
In clinical studies, Coccinia has been shown to be nothing short of amazing in lowering blood insulin and blood sugar levels in rats. These studies verify the generations-long experience Indian doctors and health practioners have had treating humans.1314 Coccinia has also been shown to improve the serum lipid profile in these rats.15
In one experimental study rats were divided into three groups: Group 1 animals served as healthy controls. Group 2 were untreated diabetic rats, and Group 3 were diabetic rats treated with a water extract of Coccinia indica. The rats’ glucose levels were tested with a fasting blood glucose (FBG) test and by doing a glucose tolerance test. These tests are much the same as would be done for you. Table 1 presents the results of the fasting blood glucose test. This test measures how much glucose remains in the bloodstream after a 12-hour fast. It establishes a “baseline” glucose level. A value above 140 mg/dl on at least two occasions typically means a person has diabetes. Normal people have fasting sugar levels that run between 70-110 mg/dl.16
The blood glucose levels of the control group of rats (healthy, untreated) rose then dropped as would be expected in this test. The diabetic rats showed almost no ability to metabolize a large amount of glucose.
The blood sugar levels of the treated diabetic rats, however, hardly increased at all. The Coccinia treatment protected them from the effects of Syndrome X and high blood sugar when even the healthy rats’ levels spiked.
Green Tea Catechins: Let the “Japanese Paradox” keep Syndrome X under control for you.
It’s no secret that the Japanese eat a lot of rice. The average annual consumption of rice in the United States is around 18 pounds per person, and this includes rice grown for beer.18 Japanese, on the other hand, consume 149 pounds of rice per person per year. This is over 8 times the U.S. annual consumption, and their figures are for rice consumed solely as a grain, not rice turned into alcohol.
So how do the Japanese stay so slim in comparison to Americans? The Japanese are taking advantage of the natural starch blockers in green tea, which most drink before and during meals.
There are numerous studies confirming that green tea catechins—particularly epigallocatechin (EGCG), a potent antioxidant flavonoid—have a dynamic anti-Syndrome X effect.1920 Yung-Hsi Kao and his research team from the University of Chicago found that EGCG significantly reduced food intake, body weight, insulin, insulin-like growth factor I, glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides in rats.
In addition, green tea catechins inhibit the activity of amylase, a starch-digesting enzyme in your saliva that breaks down starches into sugars.21 (If you chew on a soda cracker for 10 to 15 seconds, you can actually taste the sugars.) Amylase inhibition means it takes longer for your body to digest starches and your blood sugar levels stay lower. You won’t crave snacks and sweets between meals.
Green tea catechins are also high in antioxidants. These antioxidants reduce the oxidation of LDL (or “bad” cholesterol). It is this oxidation of LDL cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries.22 Green tea can be a great addition to your anti-Syndrome X health regimen. However, since drinking Green tea is not a part of our normal routine, you can get all the benefits easily by taking an extract.
Bitter Melon Leaf Extract: A gold mine of health and a heavy-duty Syndrome X fighter
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a common fruit that grows throughout much of the tropical world including parts of the Amazon, East Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It is deliberately cultivated throughout South America as a food and as a medicine. The reason for its popularity among the people who use it is its wide range of health benefits treating colic; topically for sores, wounds, and infections; internally and externally for worms and parasites; and as an antiviral for measles, hepatitis, and feverish conditions.
Bitter melon contains an array of biologically active phytochemicals including triterpenes, proteins and steroids. At least three different groups of constituents found in all parts of Bitter melon have clinically demonstrated hypoglycemic properties (blood sugar lowering) or other actions of potential benefit against diabetes mellitus.
To date, close to 100 in vito studies have demonstrated the blood glucose-lowering effect of bitter melon. The fruit has also shown the ability to enhance cells’ uptake of glucose, to promote insulin release, and potentiate the effect of insulin.232425
In other in vitro studies, Bitter melon fruit and/or seed has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides in both the presence and absence of dietary cholesterol. In one study, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic rats were returned to normal after 10 weeks of treatment.26
Bitter melon leaf can be made into a tea, but finding the leaf can be difficult unless you have access to herbal or ethnic specialty stores. It’s much easier to use it in dietary supplement form, and given the very bitter taste of all parts of this plant, much more pleasant to take.
Salacia reticulata: A powerful starch blocker to lower your blood glucose levels
In addition to drinking green tea, the Japanese have been using a powerful starch-blocking supplement for years. This plant, Salacia reticulata, grows wild in Sri Lankan and Indian forests. It has demonstrated potent starch-blocking activity in several animal-based experiments.
One study done at the Kyoto Pharmaceutical University demonstrated that daily consumption of a hot water extract of Salacia reticulata suppressed body weight by 14% in the experimental subjects.27
Search Amazon for Salacia reticulata
Salacia reticulata is a powerful starch blocker. It can significantly bolster your fight against Syndrome X. As with many of these ethno-botanicals, Salacia is not easy to obtain except in supplement form. This is not a problem since the extract is far easier and more convenient to take.
Banaba leaf: The Source of corosolic acid, one of the most effective anti-Syndrome X agents available
For centuries, the people of Southeast Asia have been using the leaves of the banaba plant to treat a number of disorders including diabetes and obesity. The active compound is corosolic acid.28 Corosolic acid is called a plant insulin because of its insulin-like effects.
Dr. Yamazaki, Professor of Pharmaceutical Science, Hiroshima University School of Medicine, studied the effects of corosolic acid in relation to its insulin-like properties. His studies indicate that corosolic acid activates the transport of glucose across cell membranes, resulting in significant blood sugar reductions.
While oral administration of insulin does not reduce blood sugar, orally administered corosolic acid can produce a significant drop in blood sugar levels. Oral doses of corosolic acid have no known side effects.
A study done in 1998 at the Tokyo Jikeikai Medical School with 24 human subjects demonstrated that corosolic acid is effective in reducing blood glucose levels in short-term (four weeks) treatment, with no signs of adverse effects. Furthermore, even a one-time dose leaves a “memory-effect” for blood glucose control for a few days.
Banaba leaf extract (corosolic acid) is a time-tested traditional medicinal plant in Asia. The leaf tea has been used for centuries as an aid for weight loss and blood sugar control. It will greatly enhance any anti-Syndrome X nutritional plan you put into place.
Cinnamon: It’s not just for seasoning—water extract boosts insulin power
Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture and several universities are confirming the effectiveness of a treatment for high blood sugar; the key factor in Syndrome X that dates back almost 4,000 years. They have isolated compounds in cinnamon bark that have been proven to lower blood sugar levels significantly in rat blood studies and in human subjects.293031 In test tube studies using fat cells, the polyphenolic polymers were found to increase sugar metabolism a whopping twenty-fold.
Dr. Richard Anderson, lead researcher in the project reported, “These compounds increase insulin sensitivity by activating key enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors, while inhibiting the enzymes that deactivate them. They are known for their antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory functions, but they have not been commonly known [until now] to improve insulin function.”
The human research study also showed considerable improvements in glucose and fat metabolism in volunteers. Blood glucose dropped 18% – 29%. Triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol also decreased between 7% and 30%.
Table cinnamon is made from cinnamon bark and contains both water and fat soluble compounds. There is no data on potential effects of long-term ingestion of table cinnamon at this point. But the good news is the active ingredients for lowering blood glucose are from water extracts of cinnamon and appear to be nontoxic in any quantity.
So, the USDA research really points to one conclusion; if you’re looking to defeat Syndrome X, you definitely should include the water extract of cinnamon in your natural supplement regimen.
Modern supplementation adds power to ancient wisdom in combating Syndrome X
So far, all of the supplements discussed are plant extracts. However, there are several very powerful supplements and minerals that are effective in combating Syndrome X. The following supplements all play a crucial role in maintaining proper blood glucose and insulin levels and should be a part of your anti-obesity campaign.
Chromium: A shortage may be responsible for excess fat
Chromium is an essential nutrient involved in normal carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.33 Yet 9 out of 10 American diets fall far short of the trace amount needed for this essential part of maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
Studies done by Dr. R. A. Anderson of the Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory, USDA, have shown that supplemental chromium has beneficial effects in lowering blood glucose levels and reducing insulin resistance without any documented side effects. His studies involved people with varying degrees of glucose intolerance ranging from mild glucose intolerance to overt Type 2 diabetes.34
Chromium is also believed to build new muscle and act as a fat burner. When combined with other supplements recommended here, it appears to have a synergistic effect (the combination is more effective than each individually).
Many of these studies have determined that chromium picolinate transports the chromium into cells more effectively than other chromium supplements. If you had to choose just two minerals for your anti-Syndrome X program, one of them undoubtedly should be chromium picolinate. The other one should be: Vanadium: “The Insulin Mineral” Vanadium is a trace element that has been tested for its glucose lowering and insulin stabilizing effects for over ten years. These studies have shown it to be highly effective in decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, lowering blood pressure, reducing the severity of Syndrome X, and lowering serum cholesterol levels in animal and human studies.35
A research team from the University of Texas Health Science Center concluded that vanadyl sulfate (the sulfate salt of vanadium) administered at maximal doses for 6 weeks improved liver and muscle insulin sensitivity in patients with Type 2 diabetes.36
Finally…You are in control of your metabolism
Syndrome X takes control away from you; it puts you at the mercy of an out-of-whack insulin system. However, by using the supplements described here, you can take back control of your metabolism. You can do it effectively…inexpensively…and, most importantly, with absolute confidence in being completely safe.
Defeat Syndrome X. Say good-bye to weight gain…to cravings and hunger. Say good-bye to damaging cellular effects and brain fog. Decide right now to defeat Syndrome X. With proper supplementation, you can do it with—or without—a strict, low carb diet.
- Dorsey Griffith, Sacramento Bee, March 10, 2004 (front page)
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- Reaven, G. Syndrome X: 6 years later. J Int Med Suppl. 199, 736;13-22
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- Dilman, V, Dean. W. The Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging and Degenerative Disease. Pensacola, FL:The Center for Bio-Gerontology, 1992.
- The Burton Goldberg Group. Alternative Medicine. pg. 764, Future Medicine Publishing, Inc., 1997, CA
- DesMaisons, Kathleen, Ph.D. Potatoes Not Prozac, pg. 31, Simon & Schuster, 1998, New York.
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- Cerami A, Vlassara H, Brownlee M. Role of advanced glycosylation products in complications of diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1988;11:73-79.
- http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/fulltext/diabetes2-5.html: C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., Alternative Medicine Review. Volume 2, Number 5, 1997
- Shibib BA, Khan LA, Rahman R. Hypoglycaemic activity of Coccinia indica and Momordica charantia in diabetic rats: depression of the hepatic gluconeogenic enzymes glucose-6-phosphatase and fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase and elevation of both liver and red-cell shunt enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Biochem J. 1993 May 15;292 ( Pt 1):267-70.
- Kamble SM, Kamlakar PL, Vaidya S, Bambole VD. Influence of Coccinia indica on certain enzymes in glycolytic and lipolytic pathway in human diabetes. Indian J Med Sci. 1998 Apr;52(4):143-6.
- Pari L, Venkateswaran S. Protective effect of Coccinia indica on changes in the fatty acid composition in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Pharmazie. 2003 Jun;58(6):409-12.
- Norman Endocrine Surgery Clinic:
- Yeh GY, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ, Phillips RS. Systematic review of herbs and dietary supplements for glycemic control in diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Apr;26(4):1277-94.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service:
- Waltner-Law ME, Wang XL, Law BK, Hall RK, Nawano M, Granner DK. Epigallocatechin gallate, a constituent of green tea, represses hepatic glucose production. J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 20;277(38):34933-40. Epub 2002 Jul 12.
- Kao YH, Hiipakka RA, Liao S. Modulation of endocrine systems and food intake by green tea epigallocatechin gallate. Endocrinology. 2000 Mar;141(3):980-7.
- Kreydiyyeh SI et al. Tea extract inhibits intestinal absorption of glucose and sodium in rats. Comp Biochem Physiol C Pharmacol Toxico Endocrino 1994;108:359-65.
- Luo, M., et al. “Inhibition of LDL oxidation by green tea extract.” The Lancet 199, 349:360-361.
- Raza, H., et al. “Modulation of xenobiotic metabolism and oxidative stress in chronic streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats fed with Momordica charantia fruit extract.” J. Biochem. Mol. Toxicol. 2000; 14(3): 131-39.
- Matsuda, H., et al. “Inhibition of gastric emptying by triterpene saponin, momordin Ic, in mice: Roles of blood glucose, capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves, and central nervous system.” J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 1999; 289(2): 729-34.
- Ahmad, N., et al. “Effect of Momordica charantia (Karolla) extracts on fasting and postprandial serum glucose levels in NIDDM patients.” Bangladesh Med. Res. Counc. Bull. 1999; 25(1): 11-13.
- Ahmad, N., et al. “Effect of Momordica charantia (Karolla) extracts on fasting and postprandial serum glucose levels in NIDDM patients.” Bangladesh Med. Res. Counc. Bull. 1999; 25(1): 11-13.
- Jayasooriya, A. P., et al. “Effects of Momordica charantia powder on serum glucose levels and various lipid parameters in rats fed with cholesterol-free and cholesterol-enriched diets.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2000; 72 (1-2): 331-36.
- Yoshikawa M, Shimoda H, Nishida N, Takada M, Matsuda H. Salacia reticulata and its polyphenolic constituents with lipase inhibitory and lipolytic activities have mild antiobesity effects in rats. J Nutr. 2002 Jul;132(7):1819-24.
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- Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
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- Boden G, Chen X, Ruiz J, van Rossum GD, Turco S. Effects of vanadyl sulfate on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Metabolism (United States) Sep 1996, 45 (9) p1130-5.
- Cusi K, Cukier S, DeFronzo RA, Torres M, Puchulu FM, Redondo JC. Vanadyl sulfate improves hepatic and muscle insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Mar;86(3):1410-7.