(NaturalNews) Turmeric has a long history of use in a variety of traditional Asian medical systems for treating a wide variety of ailments. Now, Western scientists are increasingly finding that this culinary root and its active ingredients may be potent weapons in the fight against diabetes. Indeed, it has been shown to be effective at nearly every stage of diabetes and pre-diabetes.
One of the earlier studies on turmeric's effectiveness in diabetes prevention was conducted by researchers from the National Centre for Cell Science in India and published in the European Journal of Pharmacology in 2007. Researchers exposed pancreatic cells from mice to a stressor after first incubating some of them in a solution of curcumin for 24 hours.
Curcumin is the active ingredient that gives turmeric its orange-yellow color. Along with related chemicals, it comprises the family of curcuminoids.
The researchers found that curcumin-treated cells were significantly less damaged by free radicals and suffered significantly less damage than untreated cells. This has implications for diabetes because damage to the pancreas can interfere with its ability to produce healthy levels of insulin.
"We show here for the first time, that prophylactic use of curcumin may effectively rescue islets from damage without affecting the normal function of these cellular structures," the researchers wrote.
Another study, published in the journal Nutrition in 2011, found that when people ate a meal high in turmeric and other spices, their blood levels of triglycerides and insulin decreased significantly, even when that meal was high in fat. Antioxidant activity in the body was also increased.
Diabetes prevention and treatment
It's not just in the short-term that turmeric provides protection against diabetes. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care in July 2012 found that it may actually prevent prediabetes from developing into diabetes.
The researchers assigned prediabetic participants to take either a 250 mg curcuminoid supplement or a placebo every day for nine months. By the end of the study, not a single person in the curcuminoid group had developed diabetes, compared with 16.4 percent of the participants in the placebo group.
But even if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, it's not too late for turmeric to provide real benefits. A 2012 study from Harbin Medical University and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that people with Type II diabetes who were given 300 mg of curcuminoids each day for three months dramatically lowered their glucose levels and insulin resistance, as well as their levels of hemoglobin A1c and free fatty acids.
"This is the first study to show that curcuminoids may have an anti-diabetic effect by decreasing serum fatty acid possibly through the promotion of fatty acid oxidation and utilization," the researchers wrote.
Turmeric has also been linked to a number of other health benefits, including reducing the inflammation and oxidation damage that can produce chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer; promoting healthy fat loss; promoting liver health; and reducing the risk of heart disease. Turmeric is also one of the most effective cancer-fighting foods.