The spicy secret to defeating diabetes

There's a big push to get pre-diabetics to take diabetes drugs to help stop the condition from turning into the real thing. But there's a natural substance that can do the job much better, and without doing any of the damage of those bad-news diabetes meds.

It's delicious, too.

Curcumin, the compound locked inside the Indian spice turmeric, can actually protect the beta cells of the pancreas -- the cells responsible for insulin production -- and a new study shows how.

Researchers in Thailand gave close to 240 pre-diabetics either curcumin supplements or a placebo. Over nine months, 19 of the 116 patients on the placebo went on to get full-blown type 2 diabetes.

No surprise there, since pre-diabetes leads to the real thing far too often.

The real surprise here is that absolutely none of the 119 patients on the curcumin supplements developed the disease.

Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory -- so powerful that in some studies it matched anti-inflammatory drugs. And in this case, it appears to be protecting the beta cells I mentioned earlier from the inflammation that often accompanies pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Sure enough, tests revealed better beta cell function in the patients who got the supplements.

So far so good, and if you're looking to protect yourself from diabetes I see no problem with adding curcumin to your regimen. The patients in this study took six pills a day, each one containing 250 mg of curcuminoids.

But let's not get carried away with this, either. Diabetes is often a disease caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, and there's not a spice (or drug) on the planet that can undo the damage of an unhealthy lifestyle.

So if you really want to prevent diabetes, make sure lifestyle changes come first and foremost, especially if you already have pre-diabetes.

And if you're already diabetic, it's not too late.

I've been able to help stop and even reverse the disease in many of my patients. For more information, make an appointment with me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.