The Benefits of Fenugreek for Preventing and Treating Diabetes

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The spice fenugreek contains 4-hydroxyisoleucine, a peculiar amino acid that may explain its benefits for controlling blood sugar.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The spice fenugreek is considered to be one of humanity’s oldest medicinal plants. What can it do? In my last video on fenugreek, I explored the evidence showing it can improve sexual function in both men and women, decrease menstrual pain, and boost milk production in lactating mothers.

And what are the side effects? Fifteen randomized controlled trials show, on average, a significant improvement in cholesterol levels. And a dozen other studies show significant improvements in both long- and short-term blood sugar control in diabetics and prediabetics using an average of about a half teaspoon a day over a period of an average of two months. Results clearly indicate that fenugreek is an inexpensive, low-risk dietary supplement that has potential to improve blood sugar control in diabetes.

What exactly is the mechanism by which it lowers blood sugars? There’s a peculiar amino acid in fenugreek that increases insulin release from the pancreas.

The peculiar 4-hydroxyisoleucine has been described as an efficient compound in the regulation of insulin secretion. Due to the fact that it acts as a secretagogue in the presence of elevated blood glucose concentrations, it has been proposed for the potential treatment of insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. There’s a class of diabetes drugs that does the same thing: sulfonylureas, sold as glucotrol, glyburide, micronase, glipizide. The problem is that they increase insulin secretion whether you need it or not, and so there’s a risk of severe hypoglycemia, driving your blood sugars too low. The funky fenugreek amino acid, on the other hand, only boosts it when you need it. When your blood sugars are normal, it has no effect. It only seems to stimulate extra insulin release when you need it most, when your blood sugars are high.

What these researchers did, was after consent was obtained from family members, pancreases were obtained from brain-dead organ donors. Put the insulin-secreting cells in a petri dish at a low blood sugar concentration, and they release a little insulin, and at high blood sugar levels they release more insulin. That makes sense. That’s what they’re supposed to do, since insulin is the hormone your body releases when trying to bring down your blood sugars. Add in some of that fenugreek amino acid, though, and you can boost insulin production. Great! But if that happened even at the low blood sugar concentration too, it would be like the drugs, and you could dip too low; but no, when you don’t need extra insulin, no fenugreek effect.

What about the role of fenugreek in the prevention of type 2 diabetes? A 3-year randomized controlled study of the efficacy of fenugreek on men and women diagnosed with prediabetes. Those randomized to fenugreek were told to take about one and a third teaspoons of fenugreek powder twice a day before meals, and both the fenugreek and the control groups that didn’t get any fenugreek were both given identical diet and lifestyle advice. And, by the end of the study, the cumulative incidence rate of diabetes was reduced significantly in the fenugreek group. Check it out. Those who didn’t get the fenugreek had a four times higher chance of developing diabetes, and you could already see the groups starting to diverge within six months, all from just a few cents worth of a spice, every day.

If you yourself want to intimately support this kind of amazing research in the future, be sure to register at organdonor.gov.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The spice fenugreek is considered to be one of humanity’s oldest medicinal plants. What can it do? In my last video on fenugreek, I explored the evidence showing it can improve sexual function in both men and women, decrease menstrual pain, and boost milk production in lactating mothers.

And what are the side effects? Fifteen randomized controlled trials show, on average, a significant improvement in cholesterol levels. And a dozen other studies show significant improvements in both long- and short-term blood sugar control in diabetics and prediabetics using an average of about a half teaspoon a day over a period of an average of two months. Results clearly indicate that fenugreek is an inexpensive, low-risk dietary supplement that has potential to improve blood sugar control in diabetes.

What exactly is the mechanism by which it lowers blood sugars? There’s a peculiar amino acid in fenugreek that increases insulin release from the pancreas.

The peculiar 4-hydroxyisoleucine has been described as an efficient compound in the regulation of insulin secretion. Due to the fact that it acts as a secretagogue in the presence of elevated blood glucose concentrations, it has been proposed for the potential treatment of insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. There’s a class of diabetes drugs that does the same thing: sulfonylureas, sold as glucotrol, glyburide, micronase, glipizide. The problem is that they increase insulin secretion whether you need it or not, and so there’s a risk of severe hypoglycemia, driving your blood sugars too low. The funky fenugreek amino acid, on the other hand, only boosts it when you need it. When your blood sugars are normal, it has no effect. It only seems to stimulate extra insulin release when you need it most, when your blood sugars are high.

What these researchers did, was after consent was obtained from family members, pancreases were obtained from brain-dead organ donors. Put the insulin-secreting cells in a petri dish at a low blood sugar concentration, and they release a little insulin, and at high blood sugar levels they release more insulin. That makes sense. That’s what they’re supposed to do, since insulin is the hormone your body releases when trying to bring down your blood sugars. Add in some of that fenugreek amino acid, though, and you can boost insulin production. Great! But if that happened even at the low blood sugar concentration too, it would be like the drugs, and you could dip too low; but no, when you don’t need extra insulin, no fenugreek effect.

What about the role of fenugreek in the prevention of type 2 diabetes? A 3-year randomized controlled study of the efficacy of fenugreek on men and women diagnosed with prediabetes. Those randomized to fenugreek were told to take about one and a third teaspoons of fenugreek powder twice a day before meals, and both the fenugreek and the control groups that didn’t get any fenugreek were both given identical diet and lifestyle advice. And, by the end of the study, the cumulative incidence rate of diabetes was reduced significantly in the fenugreek group. Check it out. Those who didn’t get the fenugreek had a four times higher chance of developing diabetes, and you could already see the groups starting to diverge within six months, all from just a few cents worth of a spice, every day.

If you yourself want to intimately support this kind of amazing research in the future, be sure to register at organdonor.gov.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

My most recent video on fenugreek is Fenugreek Benefits for Sexual Function, Painful Periods, and Milk Production.

I have a couple of older ones, too. Check out Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds and Side Effects of Fenugreek Consumption.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here. Read our important information about translations here.

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