Ancient golden spice outperforms Type II diabetes drug

A new study found that a potent compound derived from an ancient, golden spice improves the body’s response to sugar even better than metformin, the standard, first line of defense for Type II diabetes. (And I often recommend that first-line drug!)

This miraculous compound is curcumin, an active ingredient in the ancient spice turmeric.

Known for its yellow color, turmeric is used to make Indian curry dishes  together with coriander, cumin, and occasionally black or red pepper.

You may also recognize curcumin as a joint remedy, which I’ve written much about. I regularly recommend it as one of my three powerhouse ABCs of joint health, together with ashwagandha and boswellia.

Natural compounds make for great multi-taskers. And they typically offer many additional health benefits beyond their one well-known usage.

And curcumin is a perfect example.

In fact, when I attended a cancer research conference in Washington, D.C. in 2012, experts presented dozens of papers that covered more than 6,000 scientific studies on the multiple benefits of curcumin. Basically, it’s good for a plethora of ailments and conditions.

Furthermore, research shows the ancient herbal compound generally performs as well as  or better than  drugs. And without any dangerous side effects.

That observation certainly held up in the new study I mentioned earlier…

Curcumin improves cells’ response to sugar

The recent study on curcumin was published in a very formidable scientific journal called Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. It’s a weekly, peer-reviewed journal focusing on biochemistry.

Unfortunately, it’s not at the top of most mainstream doctors’ reading lists. (That’s assuming they even have time to read scientific journals in the miniscule amount of free time they have between seeing patients. And as most admit, they certainly don’t.)

When I came across the study, I knew immediately just how significant the results could be…only if more people knew about them. And I knew I needed to share them with you, dear reader, even though it takes us into some heavy-duty biochemistry. So, stick with me and we’ll go through it together…

For this study, researchers applied curcumin to rat and human cells. And that application of curcumin had three key results.

First, it effectively suppressed a metabolic pathway used by glucose (blood sugar) in rat and human cells. This observation means curcumin slowed the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream  which is ALWAYS a good thing. The more slowly sugar is released into the bloodstream, the better chance your body avoids spikes of glucose, which leads to insulin problems.

Second, the application of curcumin suppressed two enzymes key to the process of gluconeogenesis (a metabolic pathway, which produces glucose and maintains blood sugar levels).

Essentially, gluconeogenesis is a work-around way for your body’s metabolism to maintain energy. This bodily process is often the target of better Type II diabetic therapies that inhibit glucose formation as well as stimulate glucose uptake by cells.

For instance, metformin initially works to prevent absorption of glucose from the GI tract into the blood stream to begin with. Whereas insulin-type drugs drive sugar from the blood — an effect that’s only partially beneficial. While it’s true that excess sugar leaves the blood, that excess then needs a place to go, so it enters the tissues. (That’s why metformin is better than insulin and has all the other benefits — as I have explained many times.)

Curcumin suppressed the two enzymes (PEPCK and G6Pase), which are responsible for converting fat to glucose, and carbohydrates to free glucose. And, again, anything that keeps extra blood sugar out of the blood stream, and the body, benefits you immensely.

The third observation compared the application of curcumin to the application of metformin, the first-line Type II diabetes drug. Now, stick with me, because this part is really important…

The researchers found that curcumin applied to the rat and human cells increased the creation of AMPK, a key enzyme involved in glucose uptake (good insulin sensitivity), with 400 times the potency of metformin.

Furthermore, when the human body digests curcumin, it results in a product called tetrahydrocurcuminoid (THC), a metabolite with strong antioxidant properties. (I should note that this is NOT the tetrahydrocannabinoid THC found in cannabis.) And the researchers found when they applied THC to the rat and human cells, it increased the creation of AMPK with 100,000 times the potency of metformin!

All this scientific jargon simply means that curcumin and THC (curcumin’s product in the body) help improve the cells’ response to glucose. And it improves the body’s response even better than metformin.

Dr. Ajay Goel of Baylor University Medical Center in Texas commented on this important study in an interview. He praised curcumin’s various other benefits, adding that curcumin’s superiority to the drug metformin for treating diabetes is the “icing on the cake.” (Perhaps a poor metaphor, Dr. Goel.)

Of course, metformin (also a natural compound — derived from the ancient European folk remedy, French lilac) is the one and only drug I ever recommend for managing high blood sugar and Type II diabetes. But now, I may have to change my tune a bit…based on the accumulating science.

I highly recommend speaking with your doctor about adding curcumin supplementation to your metformin regimen. (Note: Again, it’s very important NOT to add curcumin to an existing regimen unless you’re working closely with a doctor, as this addition may affect the original doses of some medications.) However, if your doctor deems this combination to be a good fit for you, you can enjoy a double dose of protective benefits when treating and reversing your Type II diabetes.

I say this especially since the evidence on curcumin and blood sugar control just keeps on coming…

Fewer people progress to Type II diabetes with curcumin

In another study conducted in Thailand (where curcumin-rich curry dishes are prevalent), researchers followed 240 men and women with pre-diabetes. The researchers randomly assigned participants to receive either 250 mg per day of curcumin or placebo capsules for nine months.

After nine months, 16 percent of the placebo group developed full-blown Type II diabetes. But none of the participants who received the daily curcumin supplement ended up with diabetes during the course of the study.

While scientists continue down their research rabbit holes trying to explain the elusive, active ingredients responsible for curcumin’s many benefits, we know that those who consume turmeric in food quantities as a spice reap many amazing health benefits, such as increased longevity and 50 percent reductions in the rate of dementia. It should be noted, however, that for superior blood sugar control, adding turmeric to your diet alone may not be quite enough. This is one instance where supplementation is necessary. Nonetheless, the vast number of health benefits are well worth the effort of seeking out a high-quality curcumin supplement.

The dynamic uses of turmeric

Look for turmeric/curcumin in dietary supplements, which can be found in your local health store, pharmacy, or grocery store. I recommend 200 to 250 mg daily of turmeric (Curcuma longa) powdered root.

Of course, I always recommend using the whole food as it’s found in Nature as well. This approach may be the best way to get all the full benefits of any spice, herb, or plant.
Although there are issues with bioavailability as I discuss elsewhere.

You can find fresh turmeric roots in most health food stores or grow your own indoors. They just need a large pot and sunny spot to thrive, as they’re tropical and can grow to be three feet tall.

You can also sprinkle powered turmeric as a spice liberally on your favorite fish, meats, and vegetables. I’ve found it’s a great addition to chicken salad, tuna salad, and fresh pork chops or pork loin.You can read more about the benefits of turmeric and its amazing active compound, curcumin, by searching the archives at

And for even more natural strategies to prevent and reverse Type II diabetes, I encourage you to check out my newly released online learning tool, my Integrative Protocol for Defeating Diabetes. For more information or to enroll today, click here.

P.S. Later this week, I’ll tell you about the “forbidden food” shown to help improve blood sugar control. I’ll also warn you about the blockbuster drugs shown to increase Type II diabetes risk.

“Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells,” Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Oct 16;388(2):377-82

“Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 2012 Nov; 35(11): 2121-2127