The humble pumpkin could end the need for people with diabetes to have insulin injections.

Compounds found in the vegetable could potentially replace or drastically cut the daily number of injections for diabetics, a new study published yesterday in the journal Chemistry and Industry suggests.

Research showed that pumpkin extract promotes regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells in diabetic rats, boosting levels of insulin-producing beta cells and insulin in the blood. A group at East China Normal University found diabetic rats fed the extract had only 5 percent less plasma insulin and 8 percent fewer insulin-positive (beta) cells than healthy rats.

Research leader Tao Xia said: "Pumpkin extract is potentially a very good product for pre-diabetic persons, as well as those who already have diabetes."

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Insulin injections would probably still be necessary but the extract would seriously reduce the amount of insulin they had to take, he added.