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Ginger Extract Could Help Manage High Blood Sugar in Diabetes

ginger, diabetes treatment, Type 2 diabetes, blood sugar control

Although in The US we mostly think of ginger as a cooking spice, the root of the Zingiber officinale plant has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times as a digestive aid and an anti-inflammatory helping to treat arthritis and the common cold. Researchers from the University of Sydney have also found that extracts may help improve long-term diabetic blood sugar control.

Basil Roufogalis, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and lead author of the study published in the journal Planta Medica, obtained extracts from Buderim Ginger, grown in Australia and recognized as the “World’s Finest Ginger.” The company exports to over 17 countries worldwide. The research team found that a component of the ginger, known as gingerol, was effective in increasing uptake of glucose by cells without the need of insulin.

In Type 2 diabetes, although the body produces the hormone insulin in the pancreas (opposed to Type 1 diabetes where little to no insulin is produced), cells are unable to use it to transport glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into the cells where it is used for energy. Glucose that continues to circulate in the bloodstream can cause complications such as blindness and kidney disease in diabetic patients.

Ginger, a knotted thick underground stem known as a rhizome, has many important active compounds including gingerones, gingerols, paradols and shogaols. The researchers found in this study that the [6]- and [8]-gingerols were most effective in increasing the uptake of glucose.

The team explains that these gingerols increase distribution of a protein called GLUT4. When this protein appears on the surface of the skeletal muscle cells (the major site of glucose clearance in the body), it increases glucose uptake. Type 2 diabetics have insufficient GLUT4 for this process to occur.

Gingerols are also anti-inflammatory compounds. High blood glucose levels can increase levels of proteins that result in inflammation, increasing the risk for heart disease and end-state kidney disease. A recent UK study found that inflammation is a key risk factor in the link between psoriasis and Type 2 diabetes.

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"It is hoped that these promising results for managing blood glucose levels can be examined further in human clinical trials," said Professor Roufogalis.

In the meantime, ginger is a healthful addition to the diet. Whole Foods suggests these quick serving ideas for adding ginger to your meals and snacks:
• Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
• Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
• Combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
• Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
• Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
• Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.

For medicinal use, ginger products are available in extracts, tinctures, capsules and oils. Always check with your physician before beginning any new complementary medicine and follow these guidelines set by the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Integrative Medicine:

Don't give ginger to children under 2. Ginger may be used by children over 2 years of age to treat nausea, stomach cramping, and headaches. Ask your doctor to help you determine the right dose.

In general, don't take more than 4g of ginger per day, including food sources. Pregnant women should not take more than 1g per day.
• Standardized dose: Take 75 - 2,000 mg in divided doses with food, standardized to contain 4% volatile oils or 5% total pungent compounds including 6-gingerol or 6-shogaol.
• For nausea, gas, or indigestion: 2 - 4 grams of fresh root daily (0.25 - 1.0 g of powdered root) or 1.5 - 3.0 mL (30 - 90 drops) liquid extract daily. To prevent vomiting, take 1 gram of powdered ginger (1/2 tsp) or its equivalent, every 4 hours as needed (not to exceed 4 doses daily), or 2 ginger capsules (1 gram), 3 times daily. You may also chew a 1/4 oz piece of fresh ginger when needed.
• For pregnancy-induced vomiting, use 250 mg 4 times daily for up to 4 days. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger.
• For arthritis pain: 250 mg 4 times daily.

• Side effects from ginger are rare, but if taken in high doses the herb may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth. You may be able to avoid some of the mild stomach side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, by taking ginger supplements in capsules.
• People with gallstones should ask their doctor before taking ginger. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger and will be having surgery or placed under anesthesia for any reason.
• People with heart conditions and people with diabetes should not take ginger without asking their doctors.
• Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding should talk to their doctor before taking ginger.
• Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.

Journal Reference:
Yiming Li, Van H. Tran, Colin C. Duke, Basil D. Roufogalis. Gingerols of Zingiber officinale Enhance Glucose Uptake by Increasing Cell Surface GLUT4 in Cultured L6 Myotubes. Planta Med Issue 11, July 2012 DOI: 10.1055/s-0032-1315041

Additional Resources:
Whole Foods
University of Maryland Medical Center