The number of treatments formulated each year has increased dramatically over the last 10 years due to technological advancements within the biomedical field. However, formulation and development does not necessarily equate to launch on the market, as many treatments are deemed ineffective, inferior to those already on the market, or unsafe. Therefore, all treatments produced by pharmaceuticals must undergo rigorous testing before being launched on the market. It would of course be premature and dangerous to immediately commence the testing of a new treatment in human subjects. As such, scientists take to studying the effects in models, which can include
A study published online a few weeks ago out of Thailand has added another medical benefit for curcumin supplementation, prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Curcumin, a component of turmeric root, which is a spice in curry, shows a multitude of benefits. It is a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-amyloid, anti-microbial… I could go on.
In the study, participants with “prediabetes” (basically, meeting some but not all of the criteria for Type 2 Diabetes) were given either 1.5 grams of curcumin per day, or placebo. After nine months, 16.4% of subjects in the placebo group progressed into Type 2 Diabetes, while no one in the curcumin group did. The curcumin group also showed better pancreatic cell function.
Research like this, of course, is phenomenal news. Increases in obesity world-wide have led to skyrocketing levels of diabetes worldwide, increasing by nearly 10 fold over the last 30 years. Any progress we can make toward reducing diabetes is well worth the effort, and the fact that the study uses curcumin, which is extremely well tolerated, is a huge win.
Also, a quick note about the reporting of this result. Media is often (rightly) called out for grandiose statements of disease cures, when publishing the results of basic research, such small studies in animal models as a ‘potential cure for cancer’. I know why this is done, fact is that most of the population finds basic research boring, and assume that anything their tax (or charity) dollars are spent on should have an immediate effect. With this in mind, the reporting of this study has been quite the opposite. The Reuters article features a lengthy section on how natural supplements are poorly regulated in the US, and how some unscrupulous companies have been selling products that have nowhere near the label amount of curcumin. This is quite a red herring in this case. Unscrupulous suppliers have been (essentially) stealing from consumers in ANY industry since the concept of industry began. Nutraceuticals are no exception, but neither are pharmaceuticals, food, auto or anything else.
The point of the research is that, in a moderate sized (for nutraceuticals) human clinical trial, curcumin was an effective means for at least delaying, if not preventing, the development of Type 2 Diabetes. This is something that should be celebrated and lauded, not despoiled by allegations that SOME companies sell poor products.