The history of the Curcuma longa plant is quite prestigious. Dating back thousands of years to its roots in Southeast Asia, this member of the ginger family served numerous medicinal purposes.
The constituent of Curcuma longa known for its health benefits is curcumin, extracted from turmeric root. This powerful antioxidant is the poster child for modern natural medicine, as it’s both safe and nearly side effect free. But, can turmeric help with diabetes and lowering blood sugar?
Turmeric and Diabetes
We know that turmeric is capable of benefiting a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. These conditions range from arthritis and joint pain, all the way up to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Curcumin can even help with blood-thinning and depression and anxiety.
Today, research suggests that curcumin may also have a positive impact on diabetes. Specifically, it may lower and stabilize blood sugar levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. To fully understand how turmeric can help, let’s explore diabetes in more detail. (1)
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too high. Blood glucose is the body’s primary energy source derived from the food we eat. In an otherwise healthy person, the pancreas secretes insulin, the hormone used to help glucose into your cells for energy conversion.
Sometimes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or any insulin at all. This inefficiency causes glucose to stay in your blood without reaching the cells. Over time, high blood sugar can cause severe health problems if not properly managed.
There are a few types of diabetes to keep in mind as we proceed through the article:
- Type 1 Diabetes: The body cannot efficiently produce insulin. The immune system attacks the cells in your pancreas responsible for insulin production.
- Type 2 Diabetes: The body cannot manufacture insulin or use it efficiently.
- Gestational Diabetes: Often diagnosed in women during pregnancy. Usually, this condition disappears following childbirth but may increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
There also appears to be an apparent link between chronic inflammation and metabolic disorders. Thus, it’s thought that obesity-induced inflammation may further contribute to the development and worsening of the diabetic condition. (2)
Diabetes can impact anyone from any walk of life, and it’s not necessarily dependent on age. Though, people over the age of 65 tend to have a higher risk. While it’s possible to live a completely healthy life with the condition, others have more severe cases and are not quite as fortunate. (3)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
Turmeric is famous for its ability to reduce inflammation and boost immunity by acting as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Curcumin also appears to benefit hyperlipidemia and glycemia in various studies.
- Glycemia: The existence of sugar (glucose) in the blood.
- Hyperlipidemia: Excessive lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood.
Lipid accumulation from obesity may cause insulin resistance that inhibits glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose). This problem is a key feature of type 2 diabetes. The thought is, if curcumin can lower blood sugar and influence lipid levels, then it should be able to help manage diabetes and aid weight loss. (4)
In this article, we’ll dissect the research surrounding curcumin’s ability to help lower blood sugar and stabilize type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Turmeric for Diabetes: Can Curcumin Help Lower Blood Sugar?
The first study we’ll look at examined curcumin’s effects on total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides in 75 patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). The results showed a trend indicating that a lower dose of curcumin yielded higher cholesterol reduction. However, the study did not show any decrease in triglycerides. (5)
A second study sought to uncover one of curcumin’s potential anti-diabetic mechanisms of action. The research team used a curcumin C3 complex on a rat model. Researchers observed an apparent suppression of gluconeogenesis (the opposite of glycolysis).
In other words, turmeric reduced glucose creation from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as the breaking down of proteins and lipids. The result showed a promising glucose-lowering effect through the use of curcuminoids. (6)
Further research assessed the potential of turmeric to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in a prediabetic condition. This trial contained 240 subjects in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, and randomized environment.
All subjects were split and assigned to curcumin capsules or a placebo for a 9-month treatment period. The results showed that 16.4% of the placebo group developed type 2 diabetes mellitus after nine months. Impressively, none of the curcumin group progressed from a prediabetic state into T2DM.
The curcumin group also saw an improvement in the function of Beta cells (β-cells) within the pancreas. β-cells are responsible for the synthesizing and secretion of insulin and amylin (helps glycemic regulation), both of which are deficient in people with diabetes. (7, 8)
Similarly, in patients who have already developed type 2 diabetes mellitus, the addition of 150 mg of curcumin twice daily exhibited positive benefits. In total, 67 subjects completed the 8-week study.
The results showed enhanced endothelial (blood vessel) function, with notable reductions in oxidative stress and inflammation over the placebo group. These benefits can help stabilize the diabetic condition. (9)
Obesity can be a major obstacle in the management of chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. When looking at obesity-related metabolic disorders, curcumin has demonstrated several mechanisms of action.
Turmeric can interact with pancreatic cells, white blood cells, beta cells, and downregulate inflammatory cytokines. These various benefits allow curcumin to potentially reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia (heightened blood glucose levels). (10, 11)
Curcumin may also lower the risk of developing atherosclerosis, a common cardiovascular condition among people with diabetes. One 6-month double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized trial assessed turmeric’s effects on atherogenic risk factors. The results showed that turmeric administration significantly improved metabolic profiles in this high-risk population. (12)
Since diabetes also puts you at higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), turmeric can be of further use. Studies show that curcumin is an excellent way to detox and cleanse the liver. In other words, it helps support the body’s primary filtration processes.
Our last study of note used a 300 mg dosage of curcumin per day on a group of overweight type 2 diabetic patients for a 3-month treatment period. The study also contained a placebo group. The results showed that curcumin supplementation drastically reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance in the patients. (13)
Turmeric Dosage for Diabetes
What is the correct turmeric dosage for diabetes? We’ve seen that lower doses of curcumin may yield greater cholesterol reduction than higher dosages. Also, doses as low as 300 mg per day have shown substantial improvements in the diabetic condition. It seems clear that you’ll want to start small and assess your results over time.
In past articles, some studies used as much as 8,000 mg of curcumin per day with no treatment-related toxicity to report. But for managing diabetes, a dosing range of 250 mg to 500 mg of curcuminoids per day should suffice. Make sure to include piperine (black pepper extract) for enhanced absorption.
Final Thoughts on Turmeric Benefits for Blood Glucose Levels
Is turmeric good for lowering blood sugar in diabetes? The answer appears to be, yes. Remember, there is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and curcumin should not be viewed as such. However, several animal and human studies show definitive glucose-lowering and insulin-sensitizing effects that people with diabetes or prediabetes can appreciate. (14, 15)
Turmeric’s anti-diabetic activities may help reduce insulin resistance, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent other metabolic and obesity-related complications. As always, please consult with a certified medical professional to see if a turmeric supplement can be beneficial for your situation.