Diabetic patients are at an increased risk of developing heart failure when compared to their non-diabetic counter parts. Accumulative evidence suggests chronic hyperglycemia to be central in the development of myocardial infarction in these patients. At present, there are limited therapies aimed at specifically protecting the diabetic heart at risk from hyperglycemia-induced injury. Oxidative stress, through over production of free radical species, has been hypothesized to alter mitochondrial function and abnormally augment the activity of the NADPH oxidase enzyme system resulting in accelerated myocardial injury within a diabetic state. This has led to a dramatic increase in the exploration of plant-derived materials known to possess antioxidative properties. Several edible plants contain various natural constituents, including polyphenols that may counteract oxidative-induced tissue damage through their modulatory effects of intracellular signaling pathways. Rooibos, an indigenous South African plant, well-known for its use as herbal tea, is increasingly studied for its metabolic benefits. Prospective studies linking diet rich in polyphenols from rooibos to reduced diabetes associated cardiovascular complications have not been extensively assessed. Aspalathin, a flavonoid, and phenylpyruvic acid-2-O-β-D-glucoside, a phenolic precursor, are some of the major compounds found in rooibos that can ameliorate hyperglycemia-induced cardiomyocyte damage in vitro. While the latter has demonstrated potential to protect against cell apoptosis, the proposed mechanism of action of aspalathin is linked to its capacity to enhance the expression of nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) expression, an intracellular antioxidant response element. Thus, here we review literature on the potential cardioprotective properties of flavonoids and a phenylpropenoic acid found in rooibos against diabetes-induced oxidative injury.
Keywords: Cardiomyopathy; Diabetes mellitus; Hyperglycemia; Oxidative stress; Polyphenols; Rooibos.