Fenugreek: Seeds Of Hope For Diabetics

People have historically used fenugreek, a seed with Eastern origins, to treat carbohydrate-metabolism disorders, such as diabetes. In the past decade, researchers have discovered that an amino acid found in the fenugreek seed, (2S,3R,4S)-4-hydroxyisoleucine (4-ILE), can control the amount of insulin released from cells within the pancreas in humans and animals, enhance the responsiveness of tissues to insulin, and even improve carbohydrate metabolism in nondiabetic animals. The 4-ILE appears to work on the pancreatic cells in concert with glucose; in other words, 4-ILE magnifies the insulin-releasing effect of glucose entering the blood from eaten foods. For a person with type 2 diabetes, this could mean improved disposal of blood sugar and perhaps decreased dependence on antidiabetic medication. For the fitness enthusiast, the action could mean enhanced carbohydrate replenishment in exercised muscles, increased creatine retention in muscle, and perhaps greater strength or muscle mass. Although no human studies on fenugreek have yet investigated these outcomes, the recent introduction of fenugreek extracts claiming to contain 4-ILE will likely spur more research to explore the sweet promise of this bitter seed.

"Supplements" is written by nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS. He has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies, is cofounder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and is founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.