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Turmeric Increases Glucose Uptake in Muscle Cells

In this day and age one of the most insidious diseases we face is Type 2 Diabetes. It is almost a direct correlation between our fast rising obesity rates. With rapidly rising health care costs, any help in the battle against chronic disease is a welcome addition. In a study conducted at Gyeongsang National University in Korea, Curcuma longa, the active ingredient in Turmeric increases glucose uptake in muscle cells.. In Type 2 Diabetes, the disease gets progressively worse over time due to it ravaging the micro-vascular system. elevated blood glucose damages the endothelial cells of arterial walls. This leads to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This leads to damage in the retina’s, kidneys, nerves and a host of other organs. The cost of this is astronomical. In the 1970’s, the per annual cost of diabetes was  $1 billion. In 2007, that number has risen to $116 billion. In the USA, one in five dollars spent on healthcare is spent on diabetes. Any help on this assault on our healthcare system is welcome.

Turmeric Increases Glucose Uptake in Muscle Cells: The Study

First, to understand how this study was derived, we need to understand what exactly happens in type 2 diabetes. When people eat carbohydrates, there is an insulin secretion to lower blood sugar back down to baseline. When people over eat carbohydrates, blood glucose stays elevated longer. Soon the body starts storing body fat faster and the muscle cells becomes resistant to glucose. At this point blood sugar stays elevated and causes damage to proteins in the body. That is why Hemoglobin A1C is a bio marker as it shows the effect of elevated blood glucose on red blood cells. The average red blood cell lives 90 days so it gives physicians a window into how well a diabetic patient controlled their blood glucose. The first line of defense with many Type 2 diabetics is the use of metformin along with dietary changes. Although metformin has few adverse effects, perhaps a natural solution is a better solution.

In the study, mouse muscle cells were treated in vitro (in a dish) with curcumin and it increased the muscle cells ability to uptake glucose. The more curcumin the cells were exposed to, the more glucose they absorbed. It did this by increasing active acetyl-CoA carboxylase [p-ACC] and AMPK-alpha [p-AMPK-a]. 30 minutes after exposure to curcumin, these both increased their activity in the cell. AMPK activates during exercise or when muscle fibers contract. This helps to lower glucose by translocating Glut-4 receptors to the cell surface. This allows for glucose to enter muscle cells, thus lowering serum glucose levels. The added benefit is that AMPK also increases cardio-protective mechanisms and in an added benefit, increases fat burning.

Turmeric Increases Glucose Uptake in Muscle: The Conclusion

Turmeric shows a lot of promise in studies in vitro so far. There are more studies relating similar findings. If you have glucose tolerance issues or impaired blood glucose levels, adding turmeric to your supplement regimen might not be a bad solution. Turmeric has been lauded for its many health effects. This is just one more benefit. If it can indeed increase glucose uptake in human trials, we may have a safer, more natural blood glucose disposal agent. Until then, more study is needed to definitively call Turmeric a success.

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Aug-Sep;48(8-9):2366-73.

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