Turmeric is a widely used spice which also has widespread therapeutic benefits, including helping prevent and treat diabetes. I got an email from a couple of natural practitioners today, heralding the benefits of turmeric for blood sugar control, and the number bandied about was the purported 400 times more powerful than metformin.
This isn’t quite true, although turmeric is indeed a powerful AMPK activator, and one study did show that it activated AMPK 400 times more than Metformin, although that’s not the whole story by any means. This should make us at least stand up and pay attention, given that AMPK activation is at least one of the main pathways if not the main pathway by which this drug lowers blood sugar.
In a nutshell, AMPK activation, or at least the body’s detection of AMPK activation, plays a central role in type 2 diabetes, as when this breaks down, this is one of the major factors in causing our body to secrete too much glucose, mostly from the liver. We don’t have to go into this too much in this article, even though I’ve spoken about this already and no doubt will have more to say about this. It will suffice to say that with type 2’s, AMPK activation is a benefit and anything that activates it, as it tends to be low with us, is worth a hard look.
Turmeric, and its active property curcumin specifically, has been shown to help lower blood sugar in both animal and human trials, although we haven’t done anywhere near as much research on this as we need to. I read one study recently that claimed that curcumin didn’t lower people’s blood sugar, but when you look closely at the study, they used healthy, non diabetic subjects, so blood sugar control wasn’t one of the things they were looking for, and not surprisingly didn’t find any change, since this normalizes blood sugar but does not make one go below normal.
One of the best studies on turmeric or curcumin that has been done so far was one where they tested a group of pre diabetics with and without curcumin, and followed them for 9 months to see who developed diabetes.
Often times, those who only are in the class of prediabetics aren’t bad off enough for us to tell very much when a natural medicine like curcumin is given, but if we do see an improvement here, then we can be quite certain that those who actually are diabetic will see at least similar benefits.
This is because of the fact that the worse one’s diabetes is, the more there is broken, and therefore the more there is to fix. So if there’s less broken and we see it being resolved somewhat, we can be even more confident.
Of the group in the study of 240 subjects, with 120 in each group, over 16% of the placebo group had their condition escalate to a diagnosis of full blown diabetes. Not a single one of the 120 subjects who were treated with curcumin got diabetes during the study period. This is very significant.
Even more importantly, when we look at the parameters for markers like insulin resistance (HOMA),we see a significant improvement. Beta cell function also improved, and insulin levels decreased, which is exactly what we want to see by the way, lower insulin requirements are better, higher insulin requirements are bad, and that means the disease is getting worse rather than better.
When we see insulin resistance go down and insulin levels go down, that means people are getting better, pure and simple. By the same token, when we see insulin resistance and insulin levels increase, either on their own or with the very willing assistance of the medical profession, we get worse.
Since this is their treatment goal, is it any surprise that diabetics do get worse and worse over time under their care? This is what they are shooting for after all. If we paid attention to these parameters, and they are the only ones worth paying attention to by the way, short term changes in blood sugar may or may not tell the whole story, we’d be a whole lot better off.
Curcumin is also a pretty powerful natural anti inflammatory, and that plays a role in diabetes and in insulin resistance as well, so this helps diabetes along several pathways. It also increases adiponectin, a hormone that is very important in maintaining blood sugar control, and one that diabetics, especially overweight and obese ones, tend to be low in.
So while this study does show that turmeric and curcumin does help prevent diabetes and treat diabetes, the outcome of the study also showed that it improves markers that contribute to the various degrees of diabetes that are present, things like insulin resistance and beta cell function.
Given the fact that we’re doing this with a household spice that has been around for thousands of years and that is safe to take at therapeutic dosages, as opposed to drugs, which aside from their disturbing and sometimes even deadly side effects, tend to make our disease worse not better, curcumin and turmeric are well deserving of our attention indeed.