Curcumin, Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes: New Study
Curcumin is a standard spice in curry dishes, but it has also been studied for its possible role in fighting various types of cancer and inflammatory conditions. Now the results of a new study suggest curcumin may help prevent the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable
Curcumin is the main curcuminoid compound derived from the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), which is a member of the ginger family. In this new study, which was led by Dr. Somlak Chuengsamarn of Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand, 240 adults with prediabetes were randomly assigned to take six capsules daily of either placebo or 250 mg of curcuminoids for nine months.
Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have a blood glucose level that is higher than normal but not at the level defined as full-blown diabetes. That is, a normal fasting plasma glucose level is less than 100 mg/dL, while a person with prediabetes has a level between 100 and 125 mg/dL. A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher is defined as diabetes.
At the end of the nine months, 19 (16.4%) of the 116 patients who took placebo had developed type 2 diabetes, while none of the 119 patients who had taken curcumin developed the disease. According to the Diabetes Prevention Program, a major multicenter study that included more than 3,200 participants, about 11% of people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes each year.
Researchers with the Thailand study noted that curcumin appeared to improve the function of beta cells, which are the cells in the pancreas that release insulin. One possible reason for this benefit may be that curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties protect beta cells from damage.
At this point, the investigators cannot explain exactly why curcumin may help fight the development of diabetes. They did note, however, that "Because of its benefits and safety, we propose that curcumin extract may be used for an intervention therapy for the prediabetes population."
How to prevent diabetes
If you have prediabetes, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 79 million Americans aged 20 years or older have prediabetes. Having prediabetes not only increases your risk of developing diabetes, but heart disease and stroke as well.
While adding curcumin to your diet or your supplement schedule may help prevent the progression of prediabetes to diabetes, no one should rely on curcumin alone. According to the American Diabetes Association, you can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58% if you lose just 7% of your body weight, which is equal to 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds. Moderate exercise, just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, is also recommended.
Individuals who are interested in adding curcumin to their supplement schedule should be sure to buy products from reputable companies and one that have been verified by an independent testing lab, such as ConsumerLab.com. Another option for those with prediabetes is to add curcumin to a variety of dishes in the diet.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chuengsamarn S et al. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2012; published online before print: doi:10.2337/dc12-0116
Image: Wikimedia Commons