Ginger spices diabetes treatment

The fleshy and strong smelling Ginger (Zingiber officinale) root has been used as a food and as a medicine for at least 5000 years. Indeed, there is an Indian proverb that says ‘every good quality is contained in Ginger’ and, like most good proverbs, there is more than a grain of truth in it. Now a new study has shown that as well as everything else it can do, ginger might also be of use in diabetes.

Indians have used Ginger in cooking and medicine for millennia. They consider it a physical and spiritual cleanser as it leaves the user smelling sweet and therefore presentable to the Gods. This sentiment was echoed in the ancient Chinese medical text the Pen Tsao Ching which stated that Ginger “eliminates body odor and puts a person in touch with the spiritual realm”. Since ancient times Chinese sailors chewed Ginger root to prevent seasickness and Chinese doctors used it for arthritis and kidney problems. The ancient Greeks also loved Ginger, particularly as a digestive aid as did the Romans and later the English. Today we know that ginger is also an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. On top of all this, research from the University of Sydney has shown that it can also help reduce blood sugar.

In their analysis these researchers used an extract of Buderim Ginger (an Australian ginger). They exposed human muscle cells grown in the lab to various forms of ginger extract to see what effect they would have on the cell’s ability to uptake glucose.

The results showed that extracts strong in “gingerols” caused a significant increase in the amount of sugar that the muscle cells would absorb. It seems that ginger does this by increasing the amount of a protein known as GLUT4 that appears on the surface of muscle cells. GLUT4 allows sugar to attach and then pass into the muscle cells.

Since difficulty getting sugar out of the bloodstream in the absence of effective insulin is the major problem in type 2 diabetes ginger might be a useful component of treatment. Given the widespread and growing incidence of type 2 diabetes you could be smelling a lot more of this “sweet” spice and more and more of us might be finding ourselves a touch more presentable to the Gods.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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