​​Turmeric's Effects on Managing Diabetes

  • Yujin Wang Master of Science – BSc, University of Sheffield, England
  • Reem Alamin HassanBachelor's degree, Biomedical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  • Linda NkrumahBiological Sciences with International Year, University of Birmingham, UK

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which your body cannot make enough insulin or does not make insulin to regulate blood sugar, which causes serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys

There are two main types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is linked with an autoimmune disorder in which your immune cells attack beta cells located in the pancreas which produce insulin. This causes your body to stop making insulin.Type 2 diabetes is when your body has insulin resistance, so the pancreas produces more and more insulin to get cells to respond. In the end, your pancreas cannot follow up the insulin production, which you can see type 2 diabetes demands exceed supplies.1

Diagram showing the normal job of the pancreas in producing insulin to lower blood sugar:

Pancreasactiononbloodsugars.gif

*Image credit by CC BY-SA 3.0,

How popular is diabetes in the UK?

Look at these astonishing statistics on Diabetes UK, there are approximately 5 million people in the UK living with diabetes, 8% patients with type 1 diabetes and 90% patients with type 2 diabetes. This disease leads to life-threatening morbidity and high risk of mortality, such as amputations, strokes, heart attacks, and other life-threatening morbidities. The prevalence of diabetes has been increasing over the past few decades, which has become a priority in managing population health. 

Do you know turmeric is a natural medicine property for managing diabetes? 

Turmeric is a golden yellow root in ginger families, it was introduced to the UK in the early 17th century during the spice trade. This golden spice has been used in medical therapy for nearly 4000 years1 in India.

More and more studies show that curcumin has a huge benefit in managing diabetes, especially for improving insulin sensitivity, decreasing glucose levels, and increasing adiponectin releases which helps regulate glucose levels and lipids metabolism.2

Curcuma longa roots.jpg
*Image credit by CC BY-SA 3.0,

The key compounds in turmeric

Curcumin is the active component in turmeric that helps your body reduce inflammation and DNA damage.3 Researchers also found that curcumin is key to type 2 diabetes prevention.

Benefits of turmeric to your body

Regulating glucose metabolism

Metabolic syndrome is also called Insulin resistance syndrome. It refers to a group of conditions that occur together, raising your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.4

Patients with metabolic syndrome usually have more than one of the following symptoms:

  • Obesity: people who have apple-shaped bodies that carry a lot of fat around their belly
  • Insulin resistance: typically for those people who are clinically diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • Hyperglycaemia: refers to high blood sugar. When lacking enough insulin, glucose in your bloodstream cannot enter your cells properly, it remains in your blood and raises your blood sugar level
  • Hypertension: also known as high blood pressure 

A clinical study shows that curcumin is statistically significant in enhancing insulin sensitivity, helping to improve glucose and lipid metabolism.5 Curcumin also benefits in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, therefore reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Reducing oxidative stress

Oxidative stress reflects the persistent imbalance between producing reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defence.6 Oxidative stress is associated with the development of diabetes complications which include stroke, neuropathy (neuro issue), retinopathy (eye issue), and nephropathy (kidney issue). Oxidative stress is measured by various biomarkers such as the levels of DNA/RNA damage, lipid peroxidation (free radicals interacting with lipids), protein oxidation (free radicals interacting with proteins), and superoxide dismutase (an enzyme involved in the capturing of free radicals).

Clinic studies showed that curcumin decreases oxidative stress caused by high glucose levels and increases the amount of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase.7,8

Anti-inflammatory effects

A persistence of high blood sugar levels eventually triggers the body’s inflammation and damages your immune system. The common symptoms are redness, swelling, or joint pains. A study published in 2021 showed that turmeric has proven strong anti-inflammation properties by preventing the production of inflammatory mediators.9

Oxidative stress can activate transcription factors (proteins involved in the production of RNA from DNA) which cause inflammation response throughout the body. This study also showed that curcumin can block this activation caused by oxidative stress, which helps reduce inflammation in your body.

Moreover, curcumin has also been shown to regulate inflammatory cytokines, such as adiponectin. A randomised controlled trial showed that curcumin increases adiponectin levels. A higher level of adiponectin may reduce the risk of progressing type 2 diabetes.10 

Lipid profile, cardiovascular health and diabetes

Lipid abnormality may signal diabetes and heart disease. Diabetes patients usually have low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high triglyceride levels.

LDL, HDL, and triglyceride

  • HDL cholesterols are good for your health, they can remove other forms of cholesterol that may damage your arteries and blood vessels 
  • LDL cholesterols are bad for your health, they can build up a wall on your arteries which makes your arteries narrow. This affects your normal bloodstream and raises your blood pressure. High levels of LDL are linked with a high risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid that circulate in your blood. Your body can convert any redundant calories into triglycerides and store them in your fat cells. Hormones help to release triglycerides for energy to support your body’ activity. High levels of triglyceride are linked with obesity and the risk of heart disease

Curcumin can help improve lipid profile in people with diabetes by increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering the levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the blood.11

Glycemic control and insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity is when your body responds to insulin properly, however, this is a common issue in patients with type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that insulin sensitivity is a key determinant for glycemic (blood sugar) control in type 2 diabetes with severe high blood sugar.12 Turmeric or curcumin can increase insulin sensitivity which helps prevent diabetes progression and reduce the risk caused by hypertension.

How to incorporate turmeric into your diet?

Turmeric is a friendly and safe natural ingredient to include in your daily diet. It is easy to get in the supermarkets or supplementary shops. Fresh turmeric is usually used in cooking, almost all types of curries contain turmeric or turmeric powder to enhance its flavour. If you don’t have time to cook or try to find an easy way to intake it, here are some choices for you:

Boil your kettle and make a cup of turmeric tea!

There are some brands of turmeric tea sold in the market, but why not make it on your own and have some fun? You need some turmeric, cinnamon and apple slices, boil them in your pot for a while, or just simply use the turmeric powder, cinnamon powder, and any fruit tea bag to soak together and then stir them well. When you can smell the fragrance, it is ready to drink.

Painting on your hummus

If you can, then well done! Hummus is rich in protein. Higher protein diets help lower the risk of heart disease and blood pressure. Add turmeric powder and other spices to your hummus, and enjoy your healthy snacks without worrying about getting fat!

Turmeric tea:

Turmeric Tea Cup.jpg
*Image credit by CC BY-SA 2.0,

Hummus:

02021 0752 (2) Hummus, Vegan food in Poland.jpg
*Image credit by CC BY-SA 4.0,

Side effects of turmeric to bear in mind

Turmeric or curcumin is pretty safe to use. However, if you have liver or stomach problems you should not take turmeric supplements, as they can increase stomach upset and irritate your bowels.

Turmeric usually doesn't cause any serious side effects. But curcumin may have potential interaction with certain medications such as anticoagulants, antibiotics, antidepressants, and cancer drugs. You can also check this list of 132 drugs that may interact with turmeric. 

FAQs

Can turmeric help to manage the weight?

Yes, turmeric can increase adiponectin, an important protein that regulates your body's glucose and blood fat levels. It can help to improve your body’s metabolism and improve weight gain.

Can I have curcumin supplements while having other medicines?

There are some concerns about the interactions of curcumin with antibiotic medications, and blood-thinning drugs. If you are considering adding curcumin supplements to your daily diet, it is always good to ask your GP before you make any changes.

Who should not have turmeric or curcumin?

Turmeric or curcumin may irritate your bowels if you have serious stomach or digestive issues. If this applies, you should avoid using high doses of curcumin. If you have serious liver and bile issues you should also avoid using curcumin supplements.

Summary

Turmeric is a golden yellow spice used as medicine for over 4000 years. Curcumin is the active component contained in turmeric which may assist in controlling diabetes. Curcumin can help blood sugar management, increase antioxidants in your body, and reduce the inflammation caused by oxidative stress. More importantly, it helps your body respond with insulin which is the key determinant for preventing type 2 diabetes.

Turmeric has lots of benefits for patients with diabetes, but it may cause drug interactions with certain drugs for treating blood vessels and artery diseases. Especially for patients with type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet is important for helping you manage your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Additionally, regular and proper exercise helps to manage your weight and maintain a normal lipid profile, reducing your risk of organ damage and heart disease.

References

  1. Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Turmeric, the Golden Spice. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: Second Edition [Internet]. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 263–88. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/.
  2. Marton LT, Pescinini-e-Salzedas LM, Camargo MEC, Barbalho SM, Haber JF dos S, Sinatora RV, et al. The Effects of Curcumin on Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) [Internet]. Frontiers Media SA; 2021 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 12. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34012421/
  3. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods [Internet]. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI); 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 6(10). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
  4. Roberts CK, Hevener AL, Barnard RJ. Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance: Underlying Causes and Modification by Exercise Training. Compr Physiol [Internet]. NIH Public Access; 2013 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 3(1):1. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129661/
  5. Su L qing, Wang Y di, Chi H yan. Effect of curcumin on glucose and lipid metabolism, FFAs and TNF-α in serum of type 2 diabetes mellitus rat models. Saudi J Biol Sci [Internet]. Elsevier; 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 24(8):1776. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5851928/
  6. Bhatti JS, Sehrawat A, Mishra J, Sidhu IS, Navik U, Khullar N, et al. Oxidative stress in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes and related complications: Current therapeutics strategies and future perspectives. Free Radic Biol Med [Internet]. 2022; 184:114–34. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35398495/.
  7. Kowluru RA, Kanwar M. Effects of curcumin on retinal oxidative stress and inflammation in diabetes. Nutr Metab (Lond) [Internet]. BioMed Central; 2007 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 4(1):1–8. Available from: https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-4-8
  8. Ren B cheng, Zhang Y fei, Liu S shan, Cheng X jing, Yang X, Cui X guang, et al. Curcumin alleviates oxidative stress and inhibits apoptosis in diabetic cardiomyopathy via Sirt1-Foxo1 and PI3K-Akt signalling pathways. J Cell Mol Med [Internet]. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2020 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 24(21):12355–67. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcmm.15725.
  9. Peng Y, Ao M, Dong B, Jiang Y, Yu L, Chen Z, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases: Status, Limitations and Countermeasures. Drug Des Devel Ther [Internet]. Dove Press; 2021 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 15:4503. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8572027/
  10. Chuengsamarn S, Rattanamongkolgul S, Luechapudiporn R, Phisalaphong C, Jirawatnotai S. Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care [Internet]. American Diabetes Association; 2012 [cited 2024 Jan 31]; 35(11):2121–7. Available from: https://dx.doi.org/10.2337/dc12-0116.
  11. Musazadeh V, Roshanravan N, Mohammadizadeh M, Kavyani Z, Dehghan P, Mosharkesh E. Curcumin as a novel approach in improving lipid profile: An umbrella meta-analysis. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 1]; 32(11):2493–504. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0939475322003246.
  12. Chen HS, Hsiao LC, Wu TE, Lee SH, Jap TS, Lin H Da. Beneficial Effects of Insulin on Glycemic Control and β-Cell Function in Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes With Severe Hyperglycemia After Short-Term Intensive Insulin Therapy. Diabetes Care [Internet]. American Diabetes Association; 2008 [cited 2024 Feb 1]; 31(10):1927. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2551629/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Yujin Wang

Master of Science – MSc, University of Sheffield, England

Yujin is a first-year master’s student in Health Technology Assessment and Reimbursement. She has several years of experience in medical and health reimbursement in public sectors. She is passionate in health related research and health promotions.

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