Fenugreek for Type 2 Diabetes
The culinary herb fenugreek may not be on your spice rack, but if you have type 2 diabetes, you may want to consider adding it. Several recent studies have brought increased attention to fenugreek and how it may help those who have diabetes.
Fenugreek has a long history of use
Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum graecum) were first used during ancient Egyptian times for treatment of digestive disorders, menopausal symptoms, and inducing childbirth. Today, fenugreek is still valued for its ability to ease digestive problems, but it is also proving itself to be effective in managing type 2 diabetes.
In a new study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the effects of fenugreek extract were examined in mouse models of type 2 diabetes, induced by a high-fat diet. Compared with mice not treated with fenugreek, those who were given the herbal extract had lower average levels of glucose (129 vs 183 mg/dL), insulin, and triglycerides.
Among mice with established diabetes, fenugreek reduced fasting plasma glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance, as well as significantly reduced total cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL). The authors concluded that fenugreek not only helped oppose the development of induced diabetes, it also had "an anti-diabetic effect in mice with established diabetes."
A significant number of studies of the potential impact of fenugreek on factors associated with type 2 diabetes have been done in animals, but studies in people with type 2 diabetes are getting attention as well.
Fenugreek in people with diabetes
In a previous (2011) study in the same journal, a team of researchers conducted a meta-analysis of herbs, including fenugreek and cinnamon, used in the treatment of diabetes. Nine randomized, placebo-controlled trials were examined, with a total of 487 patients. The evaluation revealed that fenugreek significantly improved glycemic control, with improvements seen in hemoglobin A1c.
Louisiana State University was the site of a double-blind study in which individuals with diabetes tested bread prepared with fenugreek. Eight diabetic subjects consumed bread prepared with the addition of fenugreek flour (5%) on two occasions one week apart. Blood glucose and insulin were tested periodically after the subjects consumed the bread, and values for both were lower after they ate the fenugreek bread, with a significant difference for insulin.
In 2009, the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research reported on the effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid levels in type 2 diabetic patients. Eighteen people with type 2 diabetes consumed 10 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds daily in either yogurt or hot water for 8 weeks.
Among the subjects who consumed fenugreek in hot water, fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels declined significantly, although these values did not decline in those who ate the yogurt with fenugreek.
How does fenugreek work to help fight diabetes? One study reports that a substance called 4-hydroxyisoleucine, isolated from the seeds of the herb, has shown significant potential as an anti-diabetic agent because it suppressed progression of type 2 diabetes in mice by improving insulin sensitivity and uptake of glucose. Fenugreek contains fiber and pectin, which may help lower blood glucose.
Some research also indicates that fenugreek seed may be helpful in preventing complications of diabetes, including eye disease such as retinopathy, when used alone or along with sodium orthovandate.
Always consult a healthcare professional before taking fenugreek or any supplement. No specific dosage of fenugreek for type 2 diabetes has been established, although studies have used 10 to 15 grams daily.
Hamza N et al. Preventive and curative effect of Trigonella foenum-graeum L. seeds in C57BL/6J models of type 2 diabetes induced by high-fat diet. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2012 Jul 13; 142(2): 516-22
Kassaian N et al. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid profiles in type 2 diabetic patients. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research 2009 Jan; 79(1): 34-39
Losso JN et al. Fenugreek bread: a treatment for diabetes mellitus. Journal of Medicinal Food 2009 Oct; 12(5): 1046-49
Preet A et al. Long-term effect of Trigonella foenum graecum and its combination with sodium orthovanadate in prventing histopathological and biochemical abnormalities in diabetic rat ocular tissues. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 2006; 289:137-47
Singh AB et al. Antihyperglycaemic effect of an unusual amino acid (4-hydroxyisoleucine) in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. National Product Research 2010 Feb; 24(3): 258-65
Suksomboon N et al. Meta-analysis of the effect of herbal supplement on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2011 Oct 11; 137(3): 1328-33
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