According to a 2013 study, curcumin—the main active ingredient in the South Asian spice turmeric—can significantly increase secretion of an anti-diabetic hormone known as Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in a laboratory setting. GLP-1 is a potent hormone that stimulates insulin secretion. Its own secretion in the gut is normally triggered by dietary carbs, proteins and lipids.
Boosting GLP-1 secretion is an important therapeutic target for prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes; in fact, several drugs have been designed to do exactly that.
Turmeric is the yellow spice that flavors and colors South Asian curries. Used for many centuries in traditional Indian medicine, turmeric has recently been shown to act powerfully in the human body and brain.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as hyperglycemia, is a common disease condition in which blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) is higher than normal. People with this condition either do not produce enough insulin, or their body’s cells become unable to use insulin properly.
When you eat food, your body breaks down carbs into glucose, which is the basic fuel for your body’s cells. Insulin helps sugar from your blood enter the cells in your body that need them, including your brain, muscle and liver cells.
When glucose builds up in blood instead of entering your cells, it can cause two problems:
Your cells become starved of energy
Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart
As of 2010, nearly 300 million people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, kidney failure and poor blood flow in the limbs, leading to amputations.
Some health experts believe that it may be possible to boost GLP-1 secretion in the body as a way of lowering type 2 diabetes risk. Indeed, in the present study, curcumin was shown to significantly increase GLP-1 secretion in a laboratory setting.
Also, the researchers were able to identify the exact mechanism of GLP-1 secretion, revealing a novel biological function of curcumin and suggesting that it may become an important tool in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
In a more recent study from India, 89 patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were treated with a polyherbal combination drug that included curcumin for 8 weeks. Promisingly, both fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels were seen to be significantly lower in these patients after eight weeks of treatment.
If you’re worried about your blood sugar levels, you may want to consider adding turmeric to your diet—both in cooking and in supplement form. Just sprinkle powdered turmeric in just about any dish, particularly in entrees and savory dishes—a little bit goes a long way! To get even more turmeric into your system, seek out a quality nutritional supplement designed to improve your insulin response and maintain normal blood sugar levels. Many supplement formulas contain botanical extracts, including bitter melon, Shilajit, fenugreek, banaba, and of course curcumin. All of these natural therapies are used in Ayurvedic medicine and have been proven to stabilize blood sugar naturally, with no known side effects.
So if you’d like to safely and effectively manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, remember to include turmeric in your daily cooking, and in easy supplement form.