Health

Can Ginger Help Treat or Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Al Bochi references a research review that suggested taking ginger supplements may help reduce A1C levels and fasting serum glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A1C is a common diabetes test that measures your average blood sugar level over a two- to three-month period.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast: Al Bochi notes the review wasn’t without flaws. “All of the sample groups were really small, they were done over a few weeks of time, and they were all homogenous — based out of one or two countries,” she says. Due to those factors, the studies the researchers analyzed didn’t provide enough information for experts to conclusively recommend ginger as an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Still, other research seems to support the possible benefit of ginger in a diabetes diet. Another study suggested that ginger powder helped improve glycemic control in Iranian adults with type 2 diabetes who were not on insulin after three months of supplementation, compared with a placebo group. The study was short, lasting only three months, but it was double-blind, randomized, and controlled, which suggests a potential causal effect between ginger and blood sugar control.

A research review shed some light on the potential blood-sugar-controlling mechanism in ginger. After analyzing lab and clinical studies, the authors concluded that ginger inhibits enzymes that affect how carbs are metabolized and insulin sensitivity as a whole, thereby leading to greater glucose absorption in the muscles. Researchers added in their review that ginger also has the potential to help reduce the risk of diabetes complications due to its lipid-lowering effects.

RELATED: Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Types, Benefits, and Side Effects

Possible Health Risks of Including Ginger in Your Diabetes Diet

While whole ginger and ginger powder appear to be safe, Al Bochi recommends that anyone with the condition speak to their physician or endocrinologist before adding ginger supplements to their diet. That is especially important for people who are taking diabetes medication. “We know that ginger can affect your insulin levels … so it can interact with certain diabetes medications people are on; if you’re taking ginger supplementation and you are on diabetes medication, that can cause low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia,” she says.

The risk of drug interactions increases for people with type 2 diabetes who are also taking medication for other conditions. “Not only does ginger have potential drug interactions with diabetes medication, it also has interactions with anticoagulant drugs and medication for blood pressure,” she says.

How to Incorporate Ginger in Your Diabetes Meal Plan

The inconclusive research on ginger doesn’t mean you have to avoid the herb completely if you’re managing type 2 diabetes — with your healthcare provider’s okay, of course.

After all, the spice is still a healthy way to add a boost of flavor to many dishes and beverages — and it’s certainly a better option than additives like salt, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure when used in excess. People with diabetes are twice as likely to die of heart disease than someone without the condition. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease.

So, how can you enjoy ginger in your diabetes diet?

First, keep in mind that you want to stick to the spice itself. That means processed drinks, like ginger ale and ginger beer, which contain loads of added sugar, are off-limits. These options have the opposite of the desired effect, potentially sending blood sugar levels soaring.

RELATED: 10 Everyday Things That Spike Blood Sugar

Al Bochi suggests enjoying ginger whole in your favorite type of tea, as well as in marinades and stir-fries. Ginger can also star in your baked goods when you use the substance in powder form. She notes ginger powder doesn’t carry the same possible health risks as ginger supplements, which are the more concentrated of the two.

While future studies could lead to more conclusive findings regarding the relationship between type 2 diabetes and ginger, Al Bochi says for now it’s best for people with type 2 diabetes to keep the ginger in the kitchen versus their medicine cabinet.

“The takeaway is if you are considering using ginger supplementation, talk to your physician or endocrinologist first,” Al Bochi says. “We don’t want a situation where you could end up with low blood sugar — that could affect your health. If you’re using it in your everyday cooking, that’s fine.”

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5 Delicious and Healthy Ginger Recipes to Help You Get Your Fix

Keeping blood sugar control and carb counts in mind, consider these five satisfying recipes as a place to start using ginger in your kitchen:

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