Can Fenugreek seeds, a small herb challenge the big disease like Diabetes?
Fenugreek seeds are known to be used in Indian and Chinese medicines from ancient time.
They are prepared from the dried seeds of Trigonella foenum-graecum, a medicinal plant with impressive health benefits. Indians call it ”methi”. It is a small plant with green leaves, white flowers and green long pods (picture of a real methi field). The light reddish brown yellowish seeds and the dry, fresh and frozen leaves leaves along frozen raw leaves are regularly used household items in India. Methi leaves and seeds can add unique flavor to the curries and rotis.
You could easily buy fenugreek seeds from the supermarket, Indian grocery stores or online.
Aside from its culinary use, one of the significant benefits of Fenugreek seeds is known for is to reduce blood sugar in diabetes patients. Diabetes, if left untreated for a long time one can suffer from multiple organ failures and degradation of quality of life. Here is the link to our recently published post about the symptoms of diabetes.
One tablespoon (11.1 grams) of whole fenugreek seeds contain
- Energy, 35.5 kcal
- Protein, 2.55 gm
- Total fat, 0.71 gm,
- Carbohydrate, 6.48 gm
- Total dietary fiber, 2.73 gm
Fenugreek contains good amount soluble fibers which slows the digestion of carbohydrates and reduces the spiking of blood sugar.
What is in Fenugreek Seeds that Help Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM)?
Constituents of fenugreek extracts include dietary fibers, mucilages, steroid saponins, flavonoids, trigonelline.
- 4-hydroxy isoleucine, a unique amino acid- act on pancreas to release insulin. It is an active ingredient of blood glucose control acting on pancreas to release insulin.
- Fenugrecin and trigonelin-the alkaloids present in fenugreek show hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) action
- Steroidal Saponins -Glucose and lipid lowering effects
- Soluble fibers including glucomanan delays intestinal absorption of blood sugar
What Works the Best for Glucose Reduction? Seeds, Fatted Seeds or Leaves
Normal and diabetes objects were administered for glucose reduction after eating a single dose of 25 g of seeds, 5 g of gum isolate, and 150 g of leaves. The duration of the treatment was 23 days. The results show the reduction of glucose was highest with the whole seeds (Ref: Sciencedirect.com r.d. Sharma).
Nature of Fenugreek % of Blood Glucose Reduction
whole fenugreek seeds 42.4%
Defatted fenugreek seeds. 36.9%
Defatted fenugreek seeds 36.9%
Gum isolet 37.5%
Gegummed fenugreek seeds (very little)
Cooked fenugreek seeds 35.1
Cooked fenugreek leaves (very little)
In a parallel study 66 people invested 5 gm fenugreek seed powder twice a day before meals were compared with 70 prediabetes objects (30-70 years of age). T2DM diagnostic parameters were measured every 3 months for 3 years.
- Fasting glucose was significantly reduced.
- Significant increase in LDL cholesterol
- Significant increase in insulin
- Decreased insulin resistance
- The control group had 4.2 times higher chance of developing diabetes compared to people with consuming fenugreek.
Defatted Fenugreek Seeds help Diabetes Type 1
Type 1 diabetes results from pancreas not producing insulin and the treatment involves injecting insulin to the body to control blood glucose.
In a 1990 study researchers treated insulin dependent type 1 diabetes patients each with 100 g/day of defatted fenugreek seed powder equally divided between lunch and dinner with diets of similar calorie value for 10 days.
Compared to the patients with no fenugreek in their diet, the patients with fenugreek added diet showed the following:
- Reduced fasting blood glucose
- Improved glucose tolerance
- 54% reduction in 24 h glucose excretion
- LDL cholesterol (risk for heart) and triglyceride levels were also significantly reduced
However HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) level remained unchanged.
11/ 18 type 2 diabetic patient consumed with 10 g of fenugreek seed powder/ day soaked in hot water were treated VS. 7/18 were given similar amount of fenugreek seeds powder soaked in yogurt for a duration of 8 weeks.
There was 25% reduction of fasting blood glucose (FBS) with fenugreek seed powder soaked in hot water. No change in Fasting blood sugar (FBS) was seen in yogurt arm.
Fenugreek Seeds Help Set A Delayed Response Type 2 Diabetes
Simple addition of fenugreek seeds to your diet leads to reduction of fasting blood sugar and glycosylated hemoglobin (HA1c) level in type 2 diabetes.
In 2017: a 60 patient study, all under strict diet control and exercise (recommended by American Diabetes Association) were divided in to two equal groups. 30 of these patients were given fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water 10g/day for 6 months. The blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) level were measured each month for six months.
A fasting blood glucose reduction was seen on 5th month and HbA1c reduction was observed on 6th month. (Ref: American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2015. Diabetes Care. 2015;38:S1–94. [Google Scholar])
- If the blood sugar control was due to the fiber, the results would have been immediate.
- Fenugreek seeds may be used with drugs for reducing the dose of the medication.
The combination of fenugreek (150 mg/kg) and metformin (100 mg/kg) produced a significant reduction in plasma glucose level (20.7%) in type 2 diabetes evaluated in several chemically induced diabetic animal models
- For Diabetes: 5-100 grams of powered fenugreek seeds added to one or two meals daily for 4 days to 3 years has been used.
FDA has described fenugreek seeds “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as a flavoring spices and other natural flavorings in 21 CFR 182
Fenugreek seed shows broad margin of safety in several clinical and preclinical studies analyzed together.
Possible Side Effects of Fenugreek Seeds
The most common side effects of taking too much fenugreek may result the following. Taking more than 100 gm of fenugreek may cause intestinal distress. It can cause
- Stomach upset
- Allergic reactions with facial edema, wheezing, dizziness and shock
- Interact with warfarin to cause bleeding. People with bleeding problems should not use fenugreek seeds.
- Intake of fenugreek during pregnancy may result uterine contraction. So pregnant woman should be careful.
- Get advice from you physician about eating fenugreek seeds if you have low blood sugar
- People with allergies to chickpeas, green peas and soybeans needs to be careful taking fenugreek.
Caution! Consult your physician before you start taking fenugreek seeds.
Fenugreek seeds act as anti-diabetes in prediabetes, type1 and diabetes type 2. However more studies with larger population need to be tested. It has potential to work with anti-diabetes drugs like metformin and glibenclamide in animal model.
Consult your physician before you start taking fenugreek seeds.