Fenugreek Seeds in the Treatment of Diabetes

Reference: Raghuram TC, Sharma RD, et al: Effect of fenugreek seeds on intravenous glucose disposition in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Phytotherapy Res 8: 83-6, 1994.

Summary: Fenugreek seeds have been shown to reduce fasting and postprandial (after a meal) blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. It is not clear, however, whether this improvement is due to the effect of fenugreek on the absorption or metabolism of glucose. Diets, with or without 25 grams of fenugreek seed powder, were given randomly to 10 non-insulin dependent patients, each for 15 days, in a cross-over design. An intravenous glucose tolerance test (GTT) at the end of each study period indicated that fenugreek powder significantly reduced the area under the plasma glucose curve and increased the metabolic clearance rate. In addition, it increased erythrocyte insulin receptors. The results suggest fenugreek can improve peripheral glucose utilization which contributes to improvement in glucose tolerance. Fenugreek appears to exert its hypoglycemic effect by acting at the insulin receptor as well as the gastrotrointestinal level.

Comments/Opinions: Due to the high content of soluble fiber, it has long been assumed that the benefit of fenugreek seeds for diabetes lies with its ability to modulate plasma glucose levels by delaying gastric emptying and by direct interference with glucose absorption. This study indicates that fenugreek seed powder significantly increased molar insulin-binding receptor sites of erythrocytes. Peripheral glucose utilization improved. This adds even greater rationale for including fenugreek seed powder in the supplement regime of non-insulin dependent diabetics.

Regarding delivery form, it is interesting to note that this study used 25 grams of untreated fenugreek in two divided dosages. Fenugreek is rather bitter -- defatted and debitterized forms of the powder have been used in previous studies to increase compliance. The authors of this study, in an attempt to save time and money, opted for the less processed form and had it baked into chapati. No side effects were reported. In previous reports, 100 grams of defatted fenugreek seed was used in divided dosages with mild flatulence and even diarrhea being reported as side effects in 10-20% of the subjects. Natural product companies producing fenugreek seed products should work to raise the amount in capsules so that those not wanting to add the powder directly to food can achieve dosages found to have an effective hypoglycemic activity.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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By D. Brown

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