Can Fenugreek Lower Blood Sugar?

by Kwame Otchere
fenugreek lower blood sugar

Fenugreek is an herb found all over Asia that has several uses such as being a key ingredient in many Indian recipes. Fenugreek has also been used as part of traditional medicine in China and India for treating diabetes. Media outlets previously reported Fenugreek as one of the best supplements for preventing high blood sugar (1).

HbA1c Levels

fenugreek lower blood sugar

Human clinical trials support the beneficial effects of fenugreek seeds on blood sugar control (2-4).

For example, in a 6-month trial, all the participants underwent a supervised diet and exercise program to help control type II diabetes (3).

Half of the participants were given 10 grams of fenugreek each day before a meal. After six months fenugreek supplementation was associated with a greater reduction in HbA1c and fasting blood sugar than diet and exercise alone (3).

Muscle and Liver Sensitivity 

fenugreek lower blood sugar

Fenugreek may also increase muscle and liver sensitivity to insulin (5). Improved blood sugar control was associated with reduced melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH).

MCH plays a role in several processes such as food intake, energy expenditure, mood control and sleep-wake cycles (5). High MCH levels may also contribute to excess blood sugar and insulin (5).

How does fenugreek lower blood sugar?

The main bioactive constituents include fibre, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, and diosgenin (6). Fenugreek seeds contain 30% soluble fibre and 20% insoluble fibre which slow down and reduce sugar absorption, thus lowering post-meal blood sugar spike (6).

fenugreek lower blood sugar

4-hydroxyisoleucine is an amino acid present in fenugreek seeds. This amino acid works by increasing insulin secretion but only when high blood sugar manifests, so hypoglycaemia is not a risk unlike some anti-diabetic drugs. It may also improve insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles (6).

Diosgenin works by restoring pancreatic beta-cell function and improves insulin sensitivity in muscles, liver, and fat cells (6).

Are there any other benefits?

Fenugreek also decreases triglycerides and cholesterol (7), which is elevated in type II diabetics and may increase cardiovascular disease risk (8).

Side effects of fenugreek

If you are taking anti-diabetic medication and fenugreek, then you must monitor blood sugar because this combination may excessively lower blood sugar.

Fenugreek can have anticoagulant effects so it may not be suitable for those using medication to prevent blood clotting (9).

Conclusion

Fenugreek is widely available at low cost and has negligible side effects. You must take at least 5 grams per day in powder or whole form to reap the benefits. Lower doses and degummed (a refining process) fenugreek have little effect on blood sugar (2, 10).

Refined bread formulated with fenugreek seeds has shown to lower the post-meal increase in blood sugar when compared to just bread (10). So people that consume refined bread should consider adding fenugreek seeds to their meals to help control blood sugar.

Reference list

  1. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1044313/best-supplements-diabetes-type-2-diet-high-blood-sugar-symptoms-fenugreek
  2. Neelakantan N, Narayanan M, de Souza RJ, van Dam RM. Effect of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) intake on glycemia: a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Nutrition journal. 2014 Dec;13(1):7.
  3. Ranade M, Mudgalkar N. A simple dietary addition of fenugreek seed leads to the reduction in blood glucose levels: A parallel group, randomized single-blind trial. Ayu. 2017 Jan;38(1-2):24.
  4. Robert SD, Ismail AA, Rosli WI. Reduction of postprandial blood glucose in healthy subjects by buns and flatbreads incorporated with fenugreek seed powder. European journal of nutrition. 2016 Oct 1;55(7):2275-80.
  5. Kiss R, Szabó K, Gesztelyi R, Somodi S, Kovács P, Szabó Z, Németh J, Priksz D, Kurucz A, Juhász B, Szilvássy Z. Insulin-Sensitizer Effects of Fenugreek Seeds in Parallel with Changes in Plasma MCH Levels in Healthy Volunteers. International journal of molecular sciences. 2018 Mar 8;19(3):771.
  6. Fuller S, Stephens JM. Diosgenin, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, and fiber from fenugreek: mechanisms of actions and potential effects on metabolic syndrome. Advances in Nutrition. 2015 Mar 5;6(2):189-97.
  7. Hamden K, Jaouadi B, Carreau S, Bejar S, Elfeki A. Inhibitory effect of fenugreek galactomannan on digestive enzymes related to diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and liver-kidney dysfunctions. Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering. 2010 Jun 1;15(3):407-13.
  8. Schofield JD, Liu Y, Rao-Balakrishna P, Malik RA, Soran H. Diabetes dyslipidemia. Diabetes Therapy. 2016 Jun 1;7(2):203-19.
  9. Avalos-Soriano A, De la Cruz-Cordero R, Rosado JL, Garcia-Gasca T. 4-Hydroxyisoleucine from fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): effects on insulin resistance associated with obesity. Molecules. 2016 Nov 22;21(11):1596.
  10. Robert SD, Ismail AA, Rosli WI. Reduction of postprandial blood glucose in healthy subjects by buns and flatbreads incorporated with fenugreek seed powder. European journal of nutrition. 2016 Oct 1;55(7):2275-80.