The inhibition of alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase, enzymes involved in the digestion of carbohydrates, can significantly reduce the post-prandial increase of blood glucose and therefore can be an important strategy in the management of blood glucose level in type 2 diabetic and borderline patients. Currently, there is renewed interest in plant-based medicines and functional foods modulating physiological effects in the prevention and cure of diabetes and obesity. The plant kingdom is a wide field to search for natural effective oral hypoglycaemic agents that have slight or no side effects. More than ca. 1200 plant species have been recorded to be used empirically worldwide for their alleged hypoglycaemic activity. Therefore, natural alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase inhibitors from plant sources offer an attractive strategy for the control of hyperglycaemia. This article reviews recent data on plant extracts and isolated natural compounds that are being tested for their hypoglycaemic activity, highlights ongoing research and considers the future perspectives.
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