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St. Michael's researcher honored with Charles H. Best Award

Dr. Vladimir Vuksan of St. Michael’s Hospital has received the prestigious Charles H. Best Award from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Toronto, October 22, 2010

Dr. Vladimir Vuksan Dr. Vladimir Vuksan

Vuksan was recognized for his outstanding research achievements, his success in translating his findings into practical applications for people with diabetes and his volunteer contributions to the association.

Vuksan’s research focuses on complementary and alternative therapies for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and heart disease, particularly dietary fibre, whole grains and herbal medicine such as ginseng.

“I am most grateful to the CDA and the CH Best Foundation for the great honour this prestigious award brings to our work,” said Vuksan, a research scientist in the Keenan Research Centre at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and associate director of the hospital’s Risk Factor Modification Centre.

“I am especially grateful as this award recognizes the importance of evidence-based nutrition and the potential of complementary medicine in synergy with conventional medicine on the treatment of diabetes,” he said.

“It is my hope that we will reach new insights on the management of diabetes through a thorough scientific understanding of the effects of ancient treatments. One day these may once more become mainstream therapies for the treatment of diabetes.”

Vuksan’s research on viscous fibres has demonstrated that a combination of different fibres is more effective than the individual fibres in simultaneously lowering blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure - and may help people lose weight. He holds a patent for this.

One of the main ingredients is a fibre extracted from the konjac root, which has been eaten for more than 1,000 years in Japan, where it is known as “God’s Voice.”

His work has been instrumental in the development of PolyGlycoPlex (PGX), a commercially available viscous fibre blend sold in powdered and capsule form and as a meal replacement drink.

Vuksan’s research has also demonstrated the health benefits of salba, an oily whole grain known as the “running food” by the Aztecs who felt it gave them endurance and used it to sustain them on long hunting or trading expeditions or in battle. Vuksan's team found that salba contains high levels of fibre, omega-3 essential fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and iron, and has more antioxidants than many berries. Salba was shown to reduce blood glucose levels and blood pressure in diabetics and to reduce risk factors for heart disease such as inflammation and blood clotting. Adding salba to white bread has also been shown to curb appetites in healthy individuals.

Vuksan’s team was also the first to demonstrate the effect of ginseng - both Korean and Ontario-grown American varieties -- on reducing cardiovascular risk factors. He is currently examining the benefits of combining fibre and American and Korean ginseng on blood pressure and hemoglobin A1c levels in diabetics. Next he plans to examine the “ultimate treatment” of combining his viscous fibre blend, salba and the two ginsengs in a single, effective, multi-targeted modality for patients with Type 2 diabetes and concomitant risk factors.

The Charles H. Best award, named for the co-founder of insulin, was presented at the CDA’s annual awards dinner in Edmonton on Friday, October 22.

Vuksan began is nutrition career in his native Croatia, and before he moved to Canada in 1968 he worked for the World Health Organization in Malta, documenting the high prevalence of diabetes. He joined the St. Michael’s staff in 1990.