Turmeric Treats Diabetes, Boosts Insulin
Turmeric is derived from the roots and stems (rhizomes) of the Curcuma longa plant. It is related to the ginger plant and like ginger, readily grows in tropical locations. Turmeric has been utilized for thousands of years among traditional diets and medicines among Asians and Indonesians.
Turmeric is also considered a spice as well as a medicine – long treasured for its many medicinal benefits in Chinese Medicine, Kampo Medicine and Ayurveda. These holistic medicines have been clinically prescribing turmeric for many centuries. Turmeric’s central constituent, curcumin, has been found to be a potent antioxidant and has been used for a variety of inflammatory conditions.
Turmeric slows glucose release
Researchers from India’s University of Pune found a constituent in turmeric called Bisdemethoxycurcumin, which blocks alpha-amylase produced in the pancreas. Because it inhibits this enzyme, it slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars, which pushes blood glucose levels.
As such, the researchers found this to be one of turmeric’s main mechanisms for reducing the hyperglycemia associated with type 2 diabetes.
Turmeric reduces diabetic circulation problems
The ability of turmeric to treat type 2 diabetes was also shown in a clinical study from Italy’s University of Piemonte Orientale.
The researchers tested type 2 diabetic patients for four weeks by testing diabetic patients with microangiopathy (damage to capillary walls) and edema (swelling). The researchers gave 25 patients a turmeric extract (curcumin) product while another control group of 25 were given conventional diabetes treatment.
The patients given the turmeric had significantly improved blood flow, reduced damage to blood vessels, and reduced edema after the four week treatment. The conventional treatment group saw no improvement.
They concluded that turmeric was beneficial for microcirculation among diabetic patients.
Microcirculation damage among diabetic patients is caused by the damage and inflammation to tiny blood vessels when the blood is overtaxed by glucose. This produces a significant level of lipid peroxidation – forming free radicals that damage the blood vessel walls.
Turmeric increases insulin production
Researchers from Sweden’s Skåne University Medical School have found, in a study of 14 healthy people, that turmeric increases the pancreas’ secretion of insulin.
The study, conducted at the Skåne University Hospital, gave fourteen healthy human subjects oral glucose tolerance tests together with either placebo capsules or capsules of turmeric powder. Each subject took a total of 6 grams of turmeric powder.
The oral glucose tolerance tests were given after the capsules were given, at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes.
After 15 minutes, the turmeric group had significantly higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream. At 30 minutes, levels were the highest, with the turmeric group averaging more than 60% higher insulin levels than the placebo group. The turmeric group maintained higher insulin levels until the 120 minute mark was achieved.
The researchers concluded:
“The results show that the ingestion of 6 grams Circuma longa increased postprandial serum insulin concentration without affecting plasma glucose in healthy subjects.”
Other research has found that turmeric has positive effects upon glycemic control and diabetes, primarily in animal and cell research. This is the first human study illustrating the relationship between insulin and turmeric.
Diabetes is directly linked with insulin secretion and glycemic control.
Turmeric reduces triglycerides
Higher levels of triglycerides are often associated with type 2 diabetes.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition by Penn State University researchers, found that turmeric and cinnamon consumed prior to a fatty meal reduced triglyceride levels by 31% in overweight men.
This study added 14 grams of a spice blend including turmeric and cinnamon to a meal eaten by six overweight men, and compared the effects to those following consuming a meal without the spices. This study also found that the subjects’ antioxidant levels were also significantly increased by the meal with the spice blend.
Turmeric with cooking or supplementation?
Turmeric is great as a spice – for use in all sorts of dishes. However, a spoonful once or twice a week probably won’t have much effect. Ayurvedic cooking, for example, uses the spice with practically every meal – three times a day. This would be difficult for must people, so a turmeric supplement – standardized to curcumin – is an option.
We have also discussed evidence that an Ayurvedic herbs also treat type 2 diabetes.
As with all medicinal herbs, consult with your health professional.
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Skulas-Ray AC, Kris-Etherton PM, Teeter DL, Chen CY, Vanden Heuvel JP, West SG. A high antioxidant spice blend attenuates postprandial insulin and triglyceride responses and increases some plasma measures of antioxidant activity in healthy, overweight men. J Nutr. 2011 Aug;141(8):1451-7.