Nutraceuticals resveratrol (a compound from grapes), curcumin (from turmeric) and cinnamon can all help to manage diabetes, according to a study from the University of South Australia (UniSA).
Diabetes is a chronic condition marked by high levels of glucose in the blood. While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes is most common and preventable in up to nearly 60% of cases by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan.
Nutraceuticals may have a place in healthcare, but there is still a lot we need to learn about them
The World Health Organization estimates that 422 million people (or one in 11) have diabetes, costing AU$986 billion in global health expenditure each year. In Australia, diabetes is the country’s fastest growing chronic condition, with someone diagnosed with the disease every five minutes. Approximately 1.7 million people have diabetes, costing the Australian economy an estimated $14.6 billion a year.1 With complications causing blindness, heart disease and amputations, it’s the biggest challenge confronting our health system.
As the prevalence of diabetes grows, it’s understandable that more people are consuming dietary supplements in the hope of reducing their risk of the disease.
Researchers at the UniSA examined the efficacy of some of the most commonly used supplements (‘nutraceuticals’) to manage diabetes and its risk factors.2
Their review found that the nutraceuticals resveratrol (a compound from grapes), curcumin (from turmeric) and cinnamon were all effective in combatting various elements of diabetes, including regulating glucose, improving insulin resistance and reducing cholesterol.
UniSA researcher, Dr Evangeline Mantzioris said it’s important to recognise the role nutraceuticals have in modern society, especially given their popularity among consumers.
“More than 40% of Australian adults regularly use dietary supplements to enhance and improve their diets,” Dr Mantzioris says.
“They’re easily available, accessible and affordable, and unlike pharmaceuticals, they don’t need a prescription, making them extraordinarily popular. The challenge is, however, knowing which nutraceuticals will deliver on their promises.
“Our research sought to establish the effectiveness of the most popular types of nutraceuticals, and for diabetes, nutraceuticals that used the active ingredients cinnamon, curcumin or resveratrol were all effective, but in different ways.
“We found cinnamon can reduce fasting blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes; curcumin can improve insulin resistance in pre-diabetic and type 2 diabetes, and resveratrol can reduce glucose levels and improve insulin resistance. We also tested the efficacy of nutraceuticals on obesity, a key risk factor for diabetes, and, despite all the hype, none had any significant impact for weight loss.”
Dr Mantzioris says while nutraceuticals have their place, a healthy diet and lifestyle is the most important factor influencing health.
“People should invest in a diet filled with whole foods – vegetables and fruits, cereals, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, plus dairy foods – as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This should provide them with enough of the nutrients essential for good health.”
She said people considering nutraceuticals to manage or prevent diabetes, should seek recommendation from their doctor.
“Nutraceuticals may have a place in healthcare, but there is still a lot we need to learn about them.”
To read more about the role of diet in managing the risks associated with diabetes, turn to our lead story, written by Dr James Muecke AM, on page 26.
- Bergamin Amanda, Mantzioris Evangeline, Cross Giordana, Deo Permal, Garg Sanjay & Hill Alison M. Nutraceuticals: Reviewing their Role in Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. Pharmaceutical Medicine volume 33, pages291–309(2019)