How Does Turmeric Work Against Diabetes and Insulin Resistance?

Turmeric could help prevent and treat diabetes and insulin resistance.

So how do the natural compounds in turmeric work against diabetes? It turns out that turmeric has a number of useful properties that experts suggest help prevent the development or progression of type 2 diabetes. In fact, turmeric compounds may even help with type 1 diabetes. (vii.7494)

Many of the effects of the nutrients in turmeric work similarly to prescription drugs. As an added benefit, natural compounds often have a much lower risk of toxic side effects than pharmaceutical drugs.  (vii.7494)

Turmeric's antidiabetic properties include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory: Turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies (including clinical trials) suggest that drugs such as sodium salicylate that inhibit NF-κB may be therapeutic for diabetics. Many of the compounds in turmeric are effective NF-κB blockers. (vii.214593)

    Animal studies indicate that turmeric's curcumin compounds may also significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels—in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In these same studies, post-treatment levels of inflammatory proteins (such as TNF-α) were much lower than pre-treatment levels. This further suggests a link between reducing inflammation and lowering blood sugar. (vii.94)

  • Antioxidant: Diabetes produces excess free radicals that damage cells and cause diabetic complications (such as retinopathy). Turmeric's compounds not only neutralize free radicals, but also stimulate our own natural antioxidant defenses. (vii.95)
  • Carb Blocker: Lab studies show that turmeric's essential oil blocks glucosidase enzymes better than the anti-diabetic drug acarbose. Alpha-glucosidase and amylase are enzymes involved in breaking down complex carbohydrates into glucose sugars. Acarbose is used to treat pre-diabetes and diabetes by blocking these enzymes and preventing increases in blood sugar. The primary compound in turmeric's essential oil is ar-turmerone(vii.9697)

    The waste by-product of curcumin production from turmeric is also effective against these enzymes. Called spent turmeric oleoresin (STO), it's mainly made of turmeric's essential oil and curcumin compounds. Other turmeric compounds in STO include: (vii.96)

    A number of additional turmeric compounds are also effective carb blockers. These include turmerin, a protein in turmeric. Lab studies show turmerin inhibits enzymes that break down carbs better than the drug acarbose as well. (vii.98)

  • Stimulates Insulin Secretion: Animal and clinical studies suggest turmeric could help increase insulin secretion from the pancreas after eating. (vii.99)
  • Improve Insulin Sensitivity: Turmeric and its compounds appear to reduce insulin resistance by: (vii.100101)
    • Stimulating the enzyme that helps metabolize sugar in the liver.
    • Blocking inflammation due to obesity.
    • Promoting expression of proteins and hormones (such as adiponectin) that increase insulin sensitivity.
    • Encouraging insulin production.

Beneficial Turmeric Compounds & Forms

Some of the anti-diabetic effects of turmeric compounds include:

Table VII.1: Antidiabetic Effects of Turmeric Compounds
Turmeric Compound Break- down of Carbs by Enzymes Inflamma- tory Factors that from High Blood Sugar Glucose Absorption from Intestines Protect β-Cells in Islets & Pancreas Insulin Resistance Insulin Secretion by Pancreas Sugar Uptake by Muscle Cells Liver Enzymes that Promote Healthy Glucose Metabolism Liver Enzymes that
Blood Glucose
Alpha-linolenic acid
Caffeic acid
Cinnamic acid
Ferulic acid
Turmeric essential oil
Turmeric oleoresin
Vitamin E

The natural compounds in turmeric can also help regulate factors that contribute to:

Such as acarbose, miglitol, nojirimycin, and voglibose, which block or slow down carbohydrate digestion. (vii.74)
Also known as salsalate. (vii.31)

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