Curcumin and diabetes: Can turmeric help with diabetes?

16 April 2021
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice, used in dishes around the world. However, it is also said to have a range of health benefits.

Turmeric has been used as a treatment for diabetes in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years [1]. But can it help with this condition? Here, we explore turmeric and how it can support those suffering from diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a relatively common yet serious condition, where the patient’s blood glucose levels are too high. This can happen when the body fails to produce enough insulin, or when it doesn’t produce any insulin at all. Diabetes affects around 16% of people aged over 20  [2]. 

 There are two types of diabetes:
  • Type 1 diabetes – the body can’t make any insulin at all. 
  • Type 2 diabetes – the body makes insulin bit it either doesn’t work effectively or there isn’t enough  [3].  

Managing diabetes

Diabetes is usually managed by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and achieving a balanced lifestyle. Many people with type 2 diabetes are often able to manage their diabetes through these lifestyle steps alone, while others, and those with type 1 diabetes, require insulin medication.

Diet plans for diabetes usually encourage more whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables, and grains. These are high in fibre and low in sugar, meaning they can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Runner tying shoe lace

Turmeric and diabetes

 So, can turmeric and curcumin really help with diabetes?

It is thought that turmeric can help support the management of diabetes, when taken alongside a diabetes healthcare plan. It shouldn’t be used to replace any treatment recommended by a GP/medical professional.
Scientists believe that turmeric can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These are two factors that play a role in diabetes. Many of the health benefits associated with turmeric are linked to the compound known as curcumin.

The research

 A review of studies carried out in 2013, suggested that curcumin can lower blood glucose levels, as well as reducing the risk of other complications often associated with diabetes.

The review looked at the findings of more than 200 research papers and found that the spice can help patients with diabetes in a range of ways, including improving insulin resistance and cholesterol levels  [4].
Research also shows that turmeric extract can help stabilise blood sugar levels [5] which, in turn, makes diabetes easier to manage and control.
It is thought that type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. A study in 2014 observed that curcumin might adjust how the immune system functions in people with type 1 diabetes, lowering the body’s T-cell response and, as a result, strengthening the immune system  [6]. 

Turmeric and prediabetes

Studies have also indicated that as well as managing diabetes, turmeric, specifically curcumin, can help to protect against the development of diabetes in the first instance.

A study published in 2012 highlighted that people with prediabetes, who took curcumin for nine months, were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It was also noted that curcumin also improved the function of the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas  [7]. 

Based on these findings, curcumin can not only help manage the symptoms of diabetes, but it can also potentially slow down the development of the condition.
 Bowl of curcumin

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