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Curcumin Found to Curb Diabetes Risk

A new small clinical trial suggests that supplements containing curcumin, a compound in the curry spice turmeric, may help prevent diabetes in people at high risk….

The new study included 240 Thai adults with prediabetes who were randomly assigned to take either curcumin capsules or a placebo. In the intervention group, people took six supplement capsules per day, each of which contained 250 mg of curcuminoids.

Lab research has suggested curcumin can fight inflammation and oxidative damage to body cells. After nine months, 19 of the 116 placebo patients had developed type 2 diabetes, compared to none of the 119 patients taking curcumin.

Lead researcher Dr. Somlak Chuengsamarn of Srinakharinwirot University in Nakornnayok, Thailand, sees the findings as an endorsement. "Because of its benefits and safety, we propose that curcumin extract may be used for an intervention therapy for the prediabetes population," the researchers write.

Constance Brown-Riggs, a certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, stated that, "This looks promising, but there are still a lot of questions."

She added that, one issue is that the trial lasted only nine months, and we have concerns that people with prediabetes will see a quick fix in curcumin capsules.

Brown-Riggs also noted that dietary supplements are not closely regulated in the U.S., and consumers cannot be sure that a product actually contains the ingredients listed on the label. Last year, the testing company ConsumerLab.com found that 20% of curcumin and turmeric supplements it tested failed the company’s quality review.

Brown-Riggs also worries that people will ignore the diet and exercise changes they need in favor of a "magic bullet." That said, she thinks research into curcumin capsules should continue. "This study is compelling, and the good news is there seemed to be minimal adverse effects."

One study participant on curcumin reported "itching," two had constipation and one reported vertigo. It’s not clear that the supplement was to blame.

And if curcumin does help battle diabetes, the reason for that is not fully clear. But the researchers did find that the supplement seemed to improve the function of beta-cells. They speculate that the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin help protect beta-cells from damage.

However, the researchers said it’s too early for people to head to the health food store for curcumin supplements.

Diabetes Care, July 6, 2012