Spice also used in traditional Indian medicine
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/22/2012 -- A substance in turmeric might help to prevent diabetes, a recent study suggests.
The main active ingredient of the yellow Indian spice is curcumin. Researchers with the American Diabetic Association gave pre-diabetic adult test subjects 1,500 mg of curcumin daily for nine months.
None of the adults who took curcumin developed diabetes, but among a test group of equal size that was given placebo pills, 16% developed diabetes. Insulin-producing pancreatic cells also appeared healthier at the end of the study, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
Type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, is considered a health problem of epidemic scale in the United States. It is also on the rise in areas where Western diets have caught on.
Traditional Indian health practices have employed turmeric for thousands of years. The spice has been used to treat arthritis and stomach ailments and is reputed to ease inflammation.
But getting the benefits of curcumin isn’t as easy as simply taking in turmeric. The substance does not become absorbed efficiently if the stomach is empty. Black pepper can prevent it from being broken down. Absorption is improved if curcumin is taken with black pepper and fat, and some supplements include the pepper.
People with gallstones should stay away from turmeric because it stimulates the gallbladder. And high doses of curcumin supplements can result in gastrointestinal discomfort. The supplements also can cause interference with blood clotting, and people who use blood thinners should be cautious.
Still, anything that can help reduce diabetes is good news for the public and the healthcare sector. Experts say treating diabetes will only add to the rising cost of health care in the United States.
Studies also are looking at turmeric to treat cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
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