BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham believe kudzu could be a valuable dietary supplement for the approximately 50 million Americans suffering a condition called metabolic syndrome.

Sufferers have conditions that contribute to heart disease and diabetes -- including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, big waists and high cholesterol.

The findings published in the latest Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry show that isoflavones in kudzu root improved regulation of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The study added kudzu root extract to the diets of lab rats.

Kudzu, a fast-growing vine that spreads quickly in the warm southern climate, is believed to have gobbled up 10 million acres of land across states like Alabama and Georgia.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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