“Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes” is an extraordinary study published in the journal of the American Diabetes Association. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of folks diagnosed with prediabetes, half of the subjects got supplements of curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric and curry powder, while the other half got identical-looking placebos, and the researchers just followed them for nine months to see who ended up with diabetes.
After nine months of treatment, 16 percent of subjects in the placebo group went on to get full-blown diabetes. How many in the curcumin group? None. The curcumin group saw a significant improvement in fasting blood sugars, glucose tolerance, hemoglobin A1C, insulin sensitivity, pancreatic insulin-producing beta cell function (measured two different ways), and insulin sensitivity.
What if you already have diabetes? Another study found the same beneficial effects—and at a fraction of the dose. The prediabetes study mentioned above used the equivalent of a quarter cup of turmeric a day, whereas this other study used only about a teaspoon’s worth, which is doable through diet rather than supplements.
What’s particularly interesting here is the purported mechanism: Fat in the bloodstream plays “an important role in the development of insulin resistance and ultimately type 2 diabetes.” Fat builds up inside your muscle cells and gums up the works, and all the inflammation interferes with insulin signaling. However, curcumin decreases fat levels in the blood, making this the first study to show that these turmeric spice compounds may have an anti-diabetic effect.
So, if you are pre-diabetic, it might be a good idea to add turmeric to your diet, but it’s important to recognize that prediabetes is a disease in itself, increasing the risk of death, cancer, heart disease, and vision loss. So, it’s not enough to just prevent progression to full-blown diabetes when prediabetes may be cured completely with a healthy plant-based diet.