Scientists from the National University of Singapore, McMaster University (Canada), and Harvard University report that medium and high doses (at least 5 grams per day) of fenugreek seed powder were associated with significant reductions in fasting blood glucose levels in diabetics.
“Our systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that fenugreek seeds may contribute to better glycemic control in persons with diabetes mellitus with a similar magnitude of effect as intensive lifestyle or other pharmaceutical treatment added to standard treatment,” they wrote in the Nutrition Journal.
“Fenugreek is widely available at low cost and generally accepted in resource poor countries such as India and China where a large proportion of persons with diabetes in the world reside. Therefore, fenugreek may be a promising complementary option for the clinical management of diabetes.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes affects over 220 million people globally and the consequences of high blood sugar kill 3.4 million every year. If such statistics weren’t scary enough, the WHO is predicting deaths to double between 2005 and 2030.
The total costs associated with the condition in the US alone are thought to be as much as $174 billion, with $116 billion being direct costs from medication, according to 2005-2007 American Diabetes Association figures.
The new meta-analysis indicates that supplements containing the herb fenugreek may help control blood sugar levels. The researchers identified 10 clinical trials for their meta-analysis, and calculated that fenugreek significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels by about 0.96 mmol/l, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term presence of excess glucose in the blood, by 0.85%.
Commenting on the potential active components of fenugreek behind the benefits, the researchers said that some studies indicate that the acute effects may be mainly due to the gum fraction. However, other studies have indicated a potential role of compounds in fenugreek to inhibit enzymatic digestion and the absorption of glucose from the gut, while there is also the potential for an amino acid derivative called 4-hydroxyisoleucine to stimulate glucose-dependent insulin.
“Given the limited quality of the included trials [most were judged to be of low methodological quality] and potential for publication bias, a larger double blind randomized trial should be conducted according to rigorous standards for herbal interventions with an appropriate randomization procedure, an adequate method of allocation concealment and transparent reporting of these methods,” wrote the researchers.
“The fenugreek herbal product must be standardized and tested for the composition and can be administered in the form of capsules with a recommended dose of at least 5 g per day.
“In order to provide more conclusive evidence on the benefit of fenugreek for glucose homeostasis, a trial in at least 100 (50 subjects in each of the study arms) persons with diabetes is warranted. The duration should preferably be at least three months to be able to evaluate effects on HbA1c levels and given the longer duration a parallel trial appears most appropriate.”
Source: Nutrition Journal
Jan 18, 2014, Volume 13(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-7
“Effect of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) intake on glycemia: a meta-analysis of clinical trials”
Authors: N. Neelakantan, M. Narayanan, R.J. de Souza, R.M. van Dam