Tumeric root and tumeric powder in a bowl

Can Curcumin Lower Blood Sugar?

Turmeric is one my favorites spices. It adds a wonderful nutty flavor to foods and sauces. Plus… it's medicine.

Its key bioactive compound, curcumin, is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. I consider curcumin to be a foundational nutrient for anyone who is serious about their health.

And we may be able to add blood sugar management to curcumin's list of benefits. Research suggests that curcumin-rich extracts of turmeric may help manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

The studies are good ones, by the way — double-blind and placebo-controlled. Let's take a look at what the research has uncovered so far.

Why curcumin may help diabetics

Performing finger stick blood test for diabetes

Insulin directs blood sugar into your cells, where it belongs. However, if insulin doesn't work, then sugar builds up in your blood — the defining mark of diabetes.

One potential reason for the loss of insulin function is high levels of fat in your blood. This is called hypertriglyceridemia. Turmeric, specifically the curcumin found in it, may help reduce the amount of fat in your blood, which in turn can improve insulin function.

And when insulin works better, diabetics can manage their disease better. As a matter of fact, the results from one study showed that 300 mg of curcumin daily for 3 months improved glycemic control in 50 overweight patients with type 2 diabetes compared to placebo. Those in the curcumin group experienced improved fasting glucose levels, better insulin sensitivity and reduced HbA1c.

The authors concluded, "This is the first study to show that curcuminoids [curcumin] may have an anti-diabetic effect by decreasing fatty acids through the promotion of fatty acid oxidation and utilization."

To put it in simple terms: Curcumin-rich turmeric extract lowered fat in the blood, which in turn improved insulin function.

Curcumin linked to better glycemic control

Woman using curcumin in her diet performing finger stick blood test

Multiple placebo-controlled trials have supported these results. Curcumin has been shown to improve insulin resistance and endothelial function, decrease inflammatory factors and blood lipid levels and improve glycemic control. It was even shown in one trial to reduce the risk of prediabetes progressing to diabetes.

This is awesome news. Diabetes affects 34 million people in the U.S., and 20% of them may not even know they have it. Moreover, 88 million adults in the U.S. (that's 1 in 3 people!) have prediabetes and most are not aware.

The cost to our nation, when you factor in all of the medical complications associated with the disease, is estimated at $327 billion a year.

Getting the most from turmeric

Healthy couple enjoying a hike

Unfortunately, many standard turmeric extracts contain a poorly absorbed form of curcumin. This means you'd have to take higher doses to get enough curcumin into your system to reach the tissues.

But patented newer forms of curcumin have dramatically boosted its bioavailability so it absorbs better and lasts longer in the body. Scientists have used a water extraction process and combined the curcumin with other compounds, such as fenugreek seed fiber, to increase the nutrient's effectiveness.

Research has shown this combination's ability to enhance the bioavailability of potent free curcuminoids in human volunteers. The results showed that people who took the new formula had levels of free curcuminoids in the blood more than 45 times greater than those who took pure curcumin alone.

By improving the absorption and tissue distribution of free curcumin, it is now possible to maximize its many potential health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular risk factors and arterial stiffness and decreasing inflammation and free radicals.

Curcumin from turmeric has been called the spice of life, and for those looking to control their blood sugar, reduce inflammation and enhance their longevity, this spice is truly golden. Take curcumin in its most bioavailable form and watch its benefits multiply.

About the Author: Dr. Michael A. Smith received his medical doctorate from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, and he practiced Internal Medicine and Radiology in Dallas, Texas in the early 2000s. Dr. Smith is the author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen. He is also the host of the Live Foreverish podcast and Facebook Live show for Life Extension.