Turmeric, an Asian spice found in many curries, has a long history of use in reducing inflammation, healing wounds and relieving pain, but can it prevent diabetes?

Because inflammation plays a large role in many diseases and is believed to be involved in the onset of both obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center were curious about the  effect turmeric might have on diabetic mice.

Endocrinologist and research scientist Drew Tortoriello, MD, and colleagues discovered that turmeric-treated mice were less susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes. They also found that turmeric-fed obese mice showed significantly reduced inflammation in fat tissue and liver.

The researchers speculate that curcumin, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant ingredient, lessens insulin resistance and prevents type 2 diabetes in mice by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity. It’s also associated with a small, but significant, decline in body weight and fat content, despite level or higher calorie consumption, suggesting that curcumin beneficially influences body composition.

“It’s too early to tell whether increasing dietary curcumin [through turmeric] intake in obese people with diabetes will show a similar benefit,” Dr. Tortoriello says. “Although the daily intake of curcumin one might have to consume as a primary diabetes treatment is likely impractical, it is entirely possible that lower dosages of curcumin could nicely complement our traditional therapies as a natural and safe treatment.”

For now, the researchers conclude turmeric and curcumin reverse many of the inflammatory and metabolic problems associated with obesity and improve blood-sugar control in mouse models of type 2 diabetes.

Turmeric has no known toxicities in doses of up to at least 12 grams daily in humans, the researchers note.

Photo courtesy of Simply Organic