Turmeric is a natural substance said to fight diabetes. Commonly used as an ingredient in curry powder, it’s sourced from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and widely available in dietary supplement form. It’s thought that curcumin (a compound found in turmeric), may help prevent diabetes as well as aid in the treatment of this condition.Turmeric has long been used in certain systems of alternative medicine (such as ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine) to treat a variety of health conditions.
Why Do People Sometimes Use Turmeric for Diabetes Control?
Due to the worldwide diabetes epidemic, about 347 million people across the globe are now struggling with this disease. What’s more, the World Health Organization predicts that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by the year 2030. Since diabetes can significantly increase your risk of life-threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke (as well as severely impair your quality of life), many individuals look to natural remedies such as turmeric for help with diabetes defense.
Some alternative medicine proponents suggest that turmeric can protect against diabetes by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation (two factors thought to play a key role in the development and progression of diabetes). Turmeric is also said to regulate blood sugar levels and combat insulin resistance.
The Science Behind Turmeric and Diabetes
Although large-scale clinical trials on turmeric’s effectiveness against diabetes are currently lacking, findings from animal-based research and a number of small studies in humans suggest that turmeric may offer diabetes-fighting benefits.
In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2012, for instance, researchers found that turmeric may help with diabetes prevention. For the study, 240 people with prediabetes (a condition in which blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis) were given either curcumin supplements or a placebo for nine months. At the end of the treatment period, 16.4 percent of participants in the placebo group—but none of the study members given curcumin—were diagnosed with diabetes.
Turmeric may also shield patients from diabetes-related kidney damage (a condition known as diabetic nephropathy), according to a small study published in Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology in 2011. After two months of taking turmeric supplements daily, patients with diabetic nephropathy showed a greater improvement in some measures of kidney health (compared to patients given a placebo). The study involved a total of 40 patients.
There’s also some evidence that turmeric may reduce risk of atherosclerosis in people with diabetes. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2014, diabetes patients given curcumin for six months had less buildup of fatty plaques in their arteries (compared to those given a placebo for the same length of time).
Furthermore, a number of studies in animals indicate that turmeric may help fight diabetes by improving blood sugar control and treating insulin resistance. Some research (including a mouse-based study published in Endocrinology in 2008) also shows that curcumin may inhibit the development of diabetes by reversing some of the negative health effects of obesity (a condition closely associated with diabetes).
Using Turmeric for Diabetes Control
While taking turmeric in supplement form (or increasing your dietary intake of turmeric) may offer some protection against diabetes, it’s important to note that turmeric should not be used as a substitute for standard care in treatment of this disease.
For optimal defense against diabetes, it’s crucial to follow certain lifestyle practices, including exercising regularly, watching your weight, and sticking to a balanced diet with limited intake of sugar.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and are considering using turmeric, it’s crucial to talk to your physician first to discuss whether it’s appropriate for you.
Updated: March 18, 2015. By Cathy Wong, ND
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