If you're looking for an herbal supplement that can help lower blood sugar, boost heart health and improve metabolism – look no further, fenugreek provides a whole range of health-boosting benefits for people with diabetes and prediabetes.
Read on to learn more.
JUMP TO: What is fenugreek | How does fenugreek work | Fenugreek for blood sugar control | Fenugreek for cholesterol | Fenugreek for appetite and weight | Fenugreek for prediabetes | Forms and dosage for fenugreek
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this information is not an endorsement for gymnema sylvestre. We are simply sharing the research surrounding it. You should always discuss using dietary supplements with your doctor.
What is Fenugreek?
You might not have heard of the humble herb called “fenugreek,” but you are probably familiar with some of the other members of the “fabaceae family” of plants – like peas, beans, and legumes.
Unlike other legumes, however, fenugreek is not usually eaten on its own. Instead, the seeds and dried leaves are used as a spice to amplify the flavor of other foods.
The fenugreek plant is native to parts of Asia and the Middle East, but its health benefits (coming primarily from the seeds) are known across the globe. Fortunately, fenugreek supplements are now commercially available almost everywhere.
How Does Fenugreek Work?
Fenugreek is full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that help the body reestablish normal hormonal and cellular function, and prevent damage from free radicals. Reducing systemic inflammation is a key factor in reducing pain and restoring your health.
This herb also contains a compound called “GII” that naturally lowers blood sugar. This hypoglycemic feature of fenugreek is especially appealing to people with type 2 diabetes who have trouble keeping their blood sugars in a healthy range.
Fenugreek for Blood Sugar Control
The blood sugar lowering effects of fenugreek have been well documented in scientific research.
One study on diabetic rabbits found that supplementing the rabbits with GII (an active plant compound found in fenugreek) at a dose of 100 mg/kg body weight for 3 weeks, produced a significant blood sugar lowering effect.
After 3 weeks of supplementation, the diabetic rabbits had fasting blood glucose levels in the normal range and their glucose tolerance test scores were improved. After 15 days on the 100 mg/kg dose of GII, even the rabbits that were previously categorized as “severely diabetic” had reduced A1C levels and insulin levels.
A scientific review of 10 studies found that in type 2 diabetic participants fenugreek supplementation resulted in an average decrease in fasting blood glucose of -17.3 mg/dl (-0.96 mmol/l), a decrease in 2 hour postprandial glucose 39.4 mg/dl (-2.19 mmol/l), and a drop in A1C of -0.85%.
Another study found that supplementing just 10 g/d of powdered whole fenugreek seeds every day for 8 weeks significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels, blood insulin levels, and A1C levels.
Other literature supports the idea that supplementing fenugreek in addition to regular cardiovascular exercise may improve glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, and increase their antioxidant enzyme activity.
Clearly, there is no denying the potential blood sugar-lowering effects of fenugreek!
Fenugreek for Cholesterol and Lipids
Amazingly, the health benefits of fenugreek don’t stop there. This wonder herb can also help you achieve healthier cholesterol levels and boost your cardiovascular health.
An early study found that giving diabetic patients a 2.5 g dose of fenugreek twice daily for 3 months improved their cardiovascular health. The diabetic patients saw reduced blood sugar as well as a major decrease in their total cholesterol and triglycerides, while their levels of HDL (good cholesterol) remained the same.
Fenugreek for Appetite and Body Weight
When normal metabolic function gets disrupted, like in cases of diabetes, it usually becomes harder to lose weight. It may even feel like you gain a couple pounds simply by walking past the bakery section of the grocery store and enjoying the aroma of fresh bread.
First and foremost…don’t give up on your diet! Even though it can be tough, taking control of your diet and ditching the extra carbs is the best thing you can do for your health.
Secondly, you might want to reach for some fenugreek, because it can help you manage your weight and keep off those extra pounds.
In fact, recent studies have even shown that undeveloped body cells are less likely to turn into fat cells in the presence of fenugreek seeds. Those little seeds actually inhibit the formation of new adipocytes (fat cells) in your body.
In animal models, fenugreek as also been shown to reduce body mass index, lower the amount of white adipose tissue, reduce blood glucose, and reduce serum insulin, while also modulating metabolic hormones and enzymes like leptin, lipase, and adiponectin.
By affecting the hormones involved in satiety and metabolism, fenugreek also helps overweight individuals manage their eating behaviors, as seen in a 6-week study.
After the 6 week trial, the group of overweight males who received the fenugreek supplement consumed a lower amount of dietary fat (relative to the total amount of calories they consumed) when compared to the placebo group. The results suggest that fenugreek may have an influence on eating patterns, and that it may be a helpful tool for managing obesity through healthier diet choices.
Fenugreek for Prediabetes
There is also evidence that the compounds in fenugreek may be able to prevent a person with prediabetes from becoming fully diabetic.
For example, one study supplied a group of rats with a high fructose diet (to stress their metabolic systems) and then gave them varying doses of fenugreek (at 1.2%, 2.4% and 4.8% potency) to see how the fenugreek effected the rats’ metabolic factors.
The results showed that the fenugreek supplement reduced food intake, body weight gain, and epididymal white adipose tissue (fat) at a dose-dependent rate, with the rats receiving the highest potency of fenugreek (4.8%) also showing the most favorable metabolic parameters.
Another study featuring a group of prediabetics found that fenugreek may be able to stop the progression of metabolic disorders. The prediabetic patients were given a fenugreek supplement (5 g twice a day before meals) every day for 3 years and the progression of the patients’ diabetes status was monitored every 3 months for the entirety of the study. The control group received a placebo.
The results showed that the incidence rate of type 2 diabetes was significantly lower in fenugreek group when compared to control group, and the control group had a 4.2 times higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes than the fenugreek group did.
Best Forms and Dosage of Fenugreek
If you’re ready to put fenugreek to the test, there are many different ways you can supplement it:
- Buy fenugreek capsules as a supplement (this is the easiest way to get large doses)
- Mix loose fenugreek powder with water as a drink or infuse it as a hot tea
- Add crushed fenugreek seeds or crushed, dried leaves to foods like curry (it pairs well with savory, spicy dishes)
While you’re looking for fenugreek supplements or powders, remember that you may also see its scientific name (T. foenum-graecum) on bottles and labels.
How much should you take?
In order to lower your blood sugar and improve your overall metabolic health, studies suggest the recommended dosage is 2-3 grams (in a powder or capsule) twice per day on an empty stomach, right before meals.
In most cases the best rule of thumb is to take the recommended dosage on the package label of the supplement you purchase.
Keep up your supplement routine for several months to see the best results!