Psyllium Improves Blood Sugar Control

Healthnotes Newswire (April 13, 2006)—Taking 10 grams of psyllium each day may help improve blood sugar control and improve blood lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes, reports the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2005;102:202–7).

Diabetes is a disorder of blood sugar regulation that affects almost 7% of the US population. People with type 2 diabetes are unable to respond appropriately to insulin—the hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps cells utilize glucose, or blood sugar. Blood sugar levels that are elevated for extended periods can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and eyes. Fortunately, lifestyle modifications that include regular physical exercise and eating a nutritious diet may help manage the disease.

Psyllium seeds are high in fiber and mucilage—properties that make it useful for treating constipation. A native plant of Iran, psyllium has also been used historically for its antidiabetic effects. Previous studies have shown that psyllium can lower blood sugar levels, as well as levels of total and LDL cholesterol in men with type 2 diabetes.

The new trial evaluated the effects of psyllium on blood lipids and indexes of blood sugar control in 36 diabetic men and women between the ages of 35 and 70. During the eight-week study, the people received either 5.1 grams of psyllium two times per day or placebo.

Compared with the placebo group, those in the psyllium group had significantly lower levels of blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, significantly higher HDL levels, and a significantly lower ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, suggesting a heart-protective effect of psyllium. Levels of total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin were not significantly different between the groups. It’s interesting to note that psyllium decreased stomach upset associated with the antidiabetic drug metformin (Glucophage).

These results suggest that supplementing with psyllium may be a safe and easy way to help improve blood sugar control while potentially lowering the risk of heart disease in type 2 diabetics.

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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