(NaturalNews) Ginger may help increase insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by researchers from the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran and published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to respond appropriately to the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin. In contrast, type 1 diabetes is characterized by the body's failing to produce sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar.
In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 64 people with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to take either a placebo or 2 g of ginger each day for two months. The researchers found that at the end of the study, patients who had received ginger had significantly higher insulin sensitivity and significantly lower levels of insulin, LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides. The findings suggest that ginger might be helpful to reduce "secondary complications" of type 2 diabetes, the researchers concluded.
Ginger increases cells' sugar uptake
The findings follow another recent study, published by researchers from the University of Sydney in 2012, which found that ginger extract helps increase cells' absorption of glucose even independent of insulin.
"This assists in the management of high levels of blood sugar that create complications for long-term diabetic patients, and may allow cells to operate independently of insulin," lead author Basil Roufogalis said.
The researchers found that the chemicals responsible for this property of ginger are the phenols known as gingerols. Specifically, gingerols increased the distribution of a protein known as GLUT4, which stimulates the skeletal muscles to uptake more glucose. Insufficiency of GLUT4 is a major cause of insulin insensitivity and high blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.
"Under normal conditions, blood glucose level is strictly maintained within a narrow range, and skeletal muscle is a major site of glucose clearance in the body," Roufogalis said.
Other benefits for diabetics
According to a study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition in 2011, ginger extracts can provide other important benefits to people with diabetes. The researchers found that ginger appears to inhibit the action of the enzymes a-glucosidase and a-amylase, which can contribute to diabetes, and also the inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase.
Inflammation has been linked to a number of chronic health conditions, including diabetes.
Furthermore, a 2009 study in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that ginger extracts reduce blood levels of insulin by approximately 10 percent, and levels of blood sugar by approximately 35 percent. This effect was caused by ginger's interaction with insulin-inhibiting serotonin receptors. Finally, a 2009 study in Basic Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology showed that ginger helped protect the body against developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Ginger is one of the most widely consumed spices and herbal medicines in the world. It is most commonly used to treat digestive upsets such as indigestion and heartburn, but is also known to be a potent anti-inflammatory.