Fenugreek belongs to the family of Leguminacae and is an annual herb native of South East Europe and West Asia. The dried seeds of fenugreek are used as a spice while the leaves are used as a vegetable in the Indian culinary. Fenugreek seed is a rich source of protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids while the leaves are sources of beta-carotene, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. Fenugreek seed has been traditionally used in Indian-subcontinent to improve the diabetic parameters and symptoms in people of all ages. India is one of the major producers and exporters of fenugreek.
The hypoglycemic effects of fenugreek have been attributed to several mechanisms. It has been shown that the amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine in fenugreek seeds increases glucose-induced insulin release in human and rat pancreatic islet cells. In human studies, fenugreek increases the number of insulin receptors, although the mechanism for this effect is unclear. Fenugreek also inhibits the activities of alpha-amylase and sucrase, two intestinal enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. fenugreek seed powder significantly reduces fasting blood glucose (FBS) and improves the glucose tolerance test. Thus Fenugreek not only increases insulin secretion upon glucose rise in the blood but also increases insulin receptor expression. Using fenugreek as supplement with your regular diabetes medication may improve the outcomes. Fenugreek seeds also lower serum triglycerides, total cholesterol (TC), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). These effects may be due to sapogenins, which increase biliary cholesterol excretion, in turn leading to lowered serum cholesterol levels.
There have been numerous studies for over a decade on the efficacy of Fenugreek, for example Several clinical trials have been conducted to test the efficacy of fenugreek as an antidiabetic supplement in various doses. Some of them are summarized here. In one trial, in type 2 diabetic patients supplementation of 15 g fenugreek seed soaked in water resulted in a significant reduction in postprandial glucose levels in 21 diabetic patients. In another randomized, controlled crossover trial with 15 diabetic patients who were given 100 g of fenugreek seed powder daily for 10 days, fenugreek seed powder significantly reduced fasting blood glucose (FBS) and improved the glucose tolerance test. In yet another randomized, controlled crossover trial, type-2 diabetic patients supplemented with 25 g fenugreek daily for 15 days showed significantly reduced the "area under the plasma glucose" curve and improved glucose tolerance. In a bigger trial that involved 60 male subjects with type-2 diabetes patients who received a daily dose of 1 g mixed powder containing equal amount of raw fenugreek seed, bitter gourd and jambu seed powder in the form of capsules or biscuit showed a significant reduction in FBS and post-prandial glucose levels. Although, the doses of fenugreek ranged from 15g to 100g it is Suggestive from these studies and historic use by native Europeans and Indians that fenugreek may help ameliorate diabetes.
A Clinical study showed that 500 mg fenugreek given once or twice daily either in combination with anti-diabetic drugs such as metformin and glipizide also provided beneficial effects on controlling plasma glucose levels. A more comprehensive study was conducted with 69 type 2 diabetic patients using oral sulfonylureas supplemented with fenugreek pills in the treatment group showed significantly decreased FBS, postprandial blood glucose and HbA1c levels, with improved clinical symptoms. It can thus be concluded that supplementation of sulfonylureas hypoglycemic drug with fenugreek could be an effective therapy to manage diabetic patients.
Fenugreek is also beneficial in patients with comorbidities. In a trial, forty patients with coronary artery disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and 30 healthy volunteers were given a diet containing 5 g of fenugreek for 3 months. At the end of the study, twenty patients with mild hyperglycemia exhibited a significant reduction in FBS and postprandial glucose levels. The hypoglycemic activity of fenugreek was also evaluated in three clinical trials with healthy or healthy obese volunteers. The treatment group received 40mg/kg aqueous extract of fenugreek seeds, four hours post-ingestion; blood glucose levels were significantly reduced in the treatment group. Taken together, there is good scientific evidence suggesting that fenugreek is an effective supplement that may help manage the blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.
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Speak with your doctor before beginning if you are diabetic or using blood thinner because Fenugreek also lowers blood sugar and thus blood sugar monitoring and dosage of your other anti-diabetic needs to be checked. Similarly, Fenugreek also reduces the blot clot formation and thus if you are taking a blood thinner the effect might be enhanced. We do not recommend anyone with anti-diabetics or on blood thinner to take Fenugreek without talking to the Doctor First.
Fenugreek is generally considered safe as it has been used in culinary for hundred of years. Speak with your doctor about a safe use of Fenugreek as a supplement if you are on other anti-diabetics or on blood thinner as Fenugreek might enhance the effects. We also do not recommend anyone pregnant, or may become pregnant, to take Fenugreek without consultations. Fenugreek has been used by women to increase breast milk production and is considered safe.
The recommended dose for Fenugreek is 1200 mg (2 capsules daily a day at least 30 minutes before a meal).