The University of Newcastle, Australia

Indian spice added to the diabetes prevention mix

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Can an Indian spice combined with an omega-3 fat delay the onset of type 2 diabetes or prevent it altogether?

Health scientists from the University of Newcastle's Nutraceuticals Research Group, led by Professor Manohar Garg, are seeking 80 recruits for a new clinical study to find out.

"The root cause of type 2 diabetes is systemic inflammation, which impacts insulin secretion and function" Professor Garg explains. "We want to nip the inflammation in the bud.

"This study will use two bioactive compounds that we find in food – curcumin and omega-3 fat. Both are very important anti-inflammatory agents."

Curcumin, derived from turmeric, is part of the ginger family and commonly used for food colouration. Its healing properties are well known in India, according to Professor Garg.

"Turmeric has been used for centuries to promote healing of bruises, sprains, wounds and inflammation. When I was injured or had inflammation as a child, my mother would put a teaspoon of turmeric powder into a glass of milk and make me drink it – I'd get a good sleep and feel better when I woke up," he said.

"Nowadays in India the level of curcumin (turmeric) intake has dropped considerably as people switch to Westernised fast foods, and it parallels with a significant rise in type 2 diabetes cases. In fact the disease is now an epidemic in India and may soon be the number one health burden."

The randomised control trial will test both compounds, with the recruitment group being segregated into four. One will get curcumin only, the second will get omega-3 fat only, the third will receive both, and the fourth will serve as a control group. The capsules contain 200 milligrams of curcumin and 1 gram of omega-3 fat respectively.

People who are prone to develop diabetes because of impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose, and who are aged between 30 and 70, may be eligible.

"The anti-inflammatory mechanisms surrounding curcumin and omega-3 fats are different, so we want to test if they complement each other and have treatment synergies beyond their individual effects," Professor Garg added. "Our thinking is that the combination is safe, free of any side- effects and may prove to be as effective as drugs used for management of diabetes".

Those who are interested in participating should call Rohith Thota on 4921 5636 or email rohithnagendra.thota@uon.edu.au

* Professor Manohar Garg is a member of the University of Newcastle's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with HMRI's Cardiovascular Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
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