Researchers found that over nine months, a daily dose of curcumin seemed to prevent new cases of diabetes among people with so-called prediabetes - abnormally high blood sugar levels that may progress to full-blown type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity.
Curcumin is a compound in turmeric spice, and lab research has suggested it can fight inflammation and so-called oxidative damage to body cells. Those two processes are thought to feed a range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, included 240 Thai adults with prediabetes who were randomly assigned to take either curcumin capsules or a placebo (identical-looking capsules with no active ingredient).
After nine months, 19 of the 116 placebo patients had developed type 2 diabetes. That compared with none of the 119 patients taking curcumin.
The researchers, led by Dr. Somlak Chuengsamarn of Srinakharinwirot University in Nakornnayok, Thailand, see the findings as an endorsement.
"Because of its benefits and safety, we propose that curcumin extract may be used for an intervention therapy for the prediabetes population," the researchers write.