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8 Benefits Of Turmeric For Diabetes Management

Turmeric Can Help Manage Diabetes

Turmeric can be a multi-pronged natural treatment for diabetes. Curcumin in it can lower blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity, balance lipid levels, and counter inflammation. Turmeric can also prevent diabetes complications like coronary heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy.

If you are looking for ways to manage your diabetes better, golden Asian spice and ayurvedic remedy turmeric may be just what you need. Whether you down it in meals, as golden milk, or in straight-up herbal remedies, there’s plenty turmeric can do to fight diabetes and possibly even prevent it. Here are the health benefits of turmeric for diabetes.

1. Reduces Blood Glucose Levels

Regular use of turmeric can prevent diabetes. Add it to food as a condiment or drink up turmeric tea.

Curcumin, a polyphenol and a major component of turmeric, plays a central role in much of the spice’s benefits against diabetes. It can help lower your blood glucose levels by bringing down glucose production in the liver (besides improving insulin sensitivity, a property detailed further in the next section). This glucose-lowering effect of turmeric/curcumin has been observed in human trials and studies on both diabetics and those with prediabetes.1 This is why turmeric is counted among effective natural glucose-lowering agents. Curcumin in turmeric also helps bring down levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, an indicator of how much in control your diabetes really is, besides helping lower blood sugar levels.2

2. Lowers Glucose Surge After Meals

Turmeric oil can help inhibit glucosidase enzymes effectively. These enzymes help break down complex carbs like starch and glycogen into glucose. So inhibiting them retards glucose absorption and prevents spikes in blood glucose levels after meals, a phenomenon known as postprandial hyperglycemia.3 This is why glucosidase inhibitors are being explored in diabetes therapy. Turmeric can, therefore, help bring down postprandial hyperglycemia as well as insulin peaks you may experience after a meal.4

3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. In this condition, cells in the muscles and liver respond poorly to insulin and do not take up enough glucose. As a result, the pancreas may produce more insulin to help use up the excess glucose. But since the cells remain resistant to insulin, over time, levels of both insulin and blood glucose become abnormally high. This may even damage the pancreas and reduce insulin production, leading to type 2 diabetes.

Turmeric helps in two ways. On the one hand, curcumin in turmeric helps stimulate glucose uptake by the body by lowering insulin resistance. On the other hand, it improves pancreatic cell function and stimulates insulin secretion. It also improves pancreatic cell function and reduces insulin resistance overall.5

4. Lowers Risk Of Heart Disease

Diabetics are at a greater risk of heart disease since high blood glucose leads to multiple risk factors of heart disease. High blood glucose levels can cause a rise in reactive oxygen species (free radicals). These, in turn, oxidize fats in the cell membranes, damage cells, and even DNA, and set off inflammation, often damaging arteries and making them vulnerable to fat deposits or atheroma. When atheroma builds up in coronary arteries, it can lead to atherosclerosis and consequently heart attack.6 Diabetes can also affect the functioning of the liver and cause an imbalance in the cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which in turn can raise the risk of atherosclerosis. And atherosclerosis or the narrowing of the arteries is also linked with high blood pressure.

The antioxidant properties of turmeric are legendary, thanks to curcumin. Curcumin has been compared to some of the most potent antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C and beta-carotene. It can scavenge free radicals before they trigger a series of damaging reactions in the body. It can also reduce oxidative stress on the liver and balance the cholesterol levels and bring down the triglycerides.7 8 9 10 11

5. Lowers Risk Of Nerve, Eye, And Kidney Damage

Chronic inflammation plays a major role in the development of diabetes. If unchecked, it goes on to damage not just the heart but also nerves (neuropathy), the eyes (retinopathy), and the kidneys (nephropathy). Turmeric is known to help improve hormonal function and protect against inflammation via multiple mechanisms. It also helps prevent diabetic complications.12 Curcumin can influence insulin response pathways to bring down the blood glucose levels, block inflammatory signals, and reduce inflammation-causing proteins.13 14

Approximately 50% of diabetics develop neuropathy, which results in pain in the limbs, numbness, tingling, or burning, and muscle cramps. In animal studies, curcumin has been found to reduce neuropathic pain by inhibiting the production of inflammatory molecules like TNF-alpha, nitric oxide, interleukin- 8 (IL-8), and interleukin-lβ (IL-Iβ) and by decreasing the nitrite levels in the brain.15

About one-third of diabetics are eventually affected by kidney damage or diabetic nephropathy. An animal study has shown that curcumin improves kidney function, reduced the degree of kidney enlargement, and reversed the changes in the kidneys to some extent, probably due to its anti-inflammatory properties.16 What the study does highlight is that using curcumin in the early stages of diabetes can prevent kidney damage to a large extent.

Diabetic retinopathy, another complication of the condition where the retina is damaged and may even lead to blindness, can be treated with turmeric. Curcumin is known to raise the antioxidant levels in the eye, reduce inflammation, and prevent the growth of new blood vessels in the eye (retinal angiogenesis).17

6. Helps Delay And Prevent Diabetes In Prediabetics

If you are prediabetic and trying to prevent it from progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes, the results of one study in particular might interest you. Researchers gave a population with prediabetes a 9-month-long course of curcumin capsules or placebo capsules. A lower proportion of people in the curcumin group developed type 2 diabetes (T2DM) compared to those who had just a placebo. Taking curcumin also improved the function of beta cells in the pancreas and did not present any major side effects.18

7. Boosts Liver Function And Fights Fatty Liver Disease In Diabetics

Turmeric also has hepatoprotective properties. This means it can protect your liver from oxidative damage and improve its functioning. Why is this important in the context of diabetes? Diabetes tends to increase your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In one animal study, diabetic subjects consuming curcumin in their diet for 8 weeks saw a decrease in liver weight and lowered excretion of creatinine, urea, inorganic phosphorus, and albumin – all of which indicate improved liver function. It also prevented liver fat accumulation and lowered insulin resistance. Turmeric also increases the antioxidant enzyme levels in the liver that help neutralize toxic byproducts of metabolism.19

8. Heals Wounds Faster

As a diabetic, you may face issues with slow wound healing. This is a result of the oxidative stress your body experiences and the prolonged inflammation in the system. Topical application of curcumin can help hasten wound healing due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.20 It can also ease any swelling.21

How To Have Your Turmeric

If you’re sold on the idea of turmeric, you’ll be happy to learn that curry isn’t the only form in which you can consume the earthy spice. Here are some ways to have your turmeric through your diet:

  • Golden Milk: If you’ve heard tales of golden milk doing the rounds, know this – the yellow hue of that now popular drink found in cafes across the country comes from turmeric! Simply infuse a spoon of organic turmeric into warm milk with some honey to taste if you like your drinks sweet. If you can’t have dairy, coconut milk or other non-dairy milks will do fine.
  • Turmeric Tea: Infuse turmeric powder or fresh turmeric root into boiling water. Add a twist of lime or lemon and honey for flavor. If you prefer your tea milky, add milk instead of the lime or lemon.
  • Fresh Turmeric Root Smoothies/Juices: If you can get your hands on fresh turmeric root, just toss it into a smoothie as you would fresh ginger.
  • Turmeric-Based Curries/Stir-Fry: Add a spoon or two of organic turmeric powder to your curries or a stir-fry with an Asian flair. If you don’t want it to dominate too much, add a little to a soup or stew and you may not even notice it is there.

For wound healing, topical application of turmeric containing creams or organic, pure turmeric powder work well.22

Dietary Intake Of Turmeric Is Safe But Limit Supplement Dosage

If you’re having turmeric in your food, it is unlikely to cause any adverse effects and you can safely use a spoon or so in all meals or enjoy a cup of turmeric milk or tea every day.

Of course, there are supplements that incorporate curcumin or turmeric, but there remain questions around the appropriate dosage for effective results, its uptake by your body, and potential side effects from prolonged use. Some experts suggest about 500 mg in capsule form every day but clarify that this will vary depending on the individual’s needs and medical history.23 Others suggest even higher doses – but this must be done with caution and under the guidance of your doctor.

If you are on blood-thinning medication, don’t consume more than regular dietary amounts as this could interfere with your medication. If you plan on significantly raising your consumption of the spice, do check with your doctor first.24

References   [ + ]

1, 5. Ghorbani, Zeinab, Azita Hekmatdoost, and Parvin Mirmiran. “Anti-hyperglycemic and insulin sensitizer effects of turmeric and its principle constituent curcumin.” International journal of endocrinology and metabolism 12, no. 4 (2014).
2. Elder, Charles. “Ayurveda for diabetes mellitus: a review of the biomedical literature.” Alternative therapies in health and medicine10, no. 1 (2004): 44.
3. Lekshmi, P. C., Ranjith Arimboor, P. S. Indulekha, and A. Nirmala Menon. “Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) volatile oil inhibits key enzymes linked to type 2 diabetes.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 63, no. 7 (2012): 832-834.
4. Pereira, Danielle Fontana, Luisa Helena Cazarolli, Cristiane Lavado, Vanessa Mengatto, Maria Santos Reis Bonorino Figueiredo, Alessandro Guedes, Moacir Geraldo Pizzolatti, and Fátima Regina Mena Barreto Silva. “Effects of flavonoids on α-glucosidase activity: potential targets for glucose homeostasis.” Nutrition 27, no. 11 (2011): 1161-1167.
6. Diabetes and your heart. British Heart Foundation.
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12. Al-Suhaimi, Ebtesam A., Noorah A. Al-Riziza, and Reham A. Al-Essa. “Physiological and therapeutical roles of ginger and turmeric on endocrine functions.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 39, no. 02 (2011): 215-231.
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16. Lu, Miaomiao, Nanchang Yin, Wei Liu, Xiangfei Cui, Shuo Chen, and Ermin Wang. “Curcumin ameliorates diabetic nephropathy by suppressing NLRP3 inflammasome signaling.” BioMed research international 2017 (2017).
17. Aldebasi, Yousef H., Salah M. Aly, and Arshad H. Rahmani. “Therapeutic implications of curcumin in the prevention of diabetic retinopathy via modulation of anti-oxidant activity and genetic pathways.” International journal of physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology 5, no. 4 (2013): 194.
18. Chuengsamarn, Somlak, Suthee Rattanamongkolgul, Rataya Luechapudiporn, Chada Phisalaphong, and Siwanon Jirawatnotai. “Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 35, no. 11 (2012): 2121-2127.
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22. Chattopadhyay, Ishita, Kaushik Biswas, Uday Bandyopadhyay, and Ranajit K. Banerjee. “Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 87 (2004): 44-53.
23. You Asked: Should I Take Turmeric Supplements?. Time Health.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.