Curry Compound May Curb Diabetes Risk

By Amir Khan on July 30, 2012 9:34 AM EDT

Turmeric
A compound found in a common curry spice may help prevent diabetes, according to a new Thai study (Photo: Creative Commons)

A compound found in a common curry spice may help prevent diabetes, according to a new Thai study, published in the journal Diabetes Care. Researchers found that high-risk people who consumed a daily dose of the compound had a lower risk of developing diabetes.

The compound in question, called curcumin, is a compound found in turmeric, a spice that comes from the root of a plant of the same name. Over 9 months, people with prediabetes, abnormally high blood sugar levels that may progress into type 2 diabetes, who had a daily dose of curcumin had a lower incidence of diabetes.

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"Because of its benefits and safety, we propose that curcumin extract may be used for an intervention therapy for the prediabetes population," Somlak Chuengsamarn, study author and researcher with Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand, told Reuters.

 High blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes come from patients with pancreas that cannot produce enough insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Traditionally, doctors treat Type 2 diabetes with medications and insulin injections. Risk factors for the condition include excess body weight, high cholesterol, low activity and poor diet, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Between 1980 and 2010, the prevalence of diabetes increased 176 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 12 Americans, 25 million in total, has diabetes according to the CDC. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and nerve damage. The disease was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and cost $174 billion in medical costs, disability and loss of work in 2007, the last year with available data.

Researchers looked at 235 people with prediabetes who were randomly selected to receive either a curcumin supplement or a placebo. After 9 months, 19 of 116 people in the placebo group developed diabetes while none of the curcumin group did.

Researchers aren't entirely sure how it protected against the disease, but said it's possible the compound improved the function of beta-cells, which are found in the pancreas and release insulin.

Despite the positive results, experts said you shouldn't run out to pick up curcumin supplements. The study was small and didn't last long enough, Constance Brown-Riggs, a certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Reuters. She said traditional methods of controlling the disease are more effective.

"This looks promising, but there are still a lot of questions," she said.  "If I was talking to a patient about this, I'd say concentrate on eating healthy and overall lifestyle." 

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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