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The Prediabetes Nutritionist

Can Moringa Lower Blood Sugar in Prediabetes?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet with moderate exercise is the best way to lower your blood sugar if you have prediabetes. While many whole foods contain natural compounds and nutrients that promote blood sugar control, moringa is one of the few scientifically proven vegetables to lower blood sugar in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

How does moringa lower blood sugar?

Moringa lowers blood sugar in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin production and sensitivity, increasing glucose uptake by the muscle and liver, blocking the action of specific enzymes that digest carbohydrates and reducing the amount of glucose the small intestines absorb.

Keep reading to learn the nutritional benefits of moringa, evidence that supports its ability to lower blood sugar and how to incorporate it into your diet. 

What is moringa?

Commonly known as drumstick, horseradish, or ben oil tree, moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a drought-resistant plant cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. There are 13 species distributed across India, Kenya, northeastern and southwestern Africa, Arabia, and Madagascar.

Asian and African natives eat the leaves, seeds, and roots and use them as traditional medicine for many conditions such as skin infections, stomach tumours, prostate concerns, and sores.  

What are the nutritional benefits of moringa?

Moringa leaves are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including folates, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium. The human body absorbs the folates in moringa leaves more easily absorbed than those found in other folate-rich foods such as legumes and green leafy vegetables (Saini et al., 2016). 

Per 100g, dried moringa leaf powder provides:

  • Protein – 24g
  • Fibre – 25g
  • Vitamin A – 1510 mcg 
  • Vitamin E – 81 mg
  • Vitamin K – 1190 mcg
  • Potassium – 1450 mg
  • Calcium – 1980 mg
  • Magnesium – 495 mg
  • Iron -45 mg

They can be eaten raw (fresh) and cooked or stored as a dried powder for many months without losing their nutritional value. Moringa leaves are safe to consume and don’t seem to cause side effects when eaten. 

Moringa leaves are also good sources of dietary fibre, omega-3 and omega-6 fats, beta-carotene, and many other antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, glucosinolates and carotenoids. 

What is evidence for moringa in blood sugar control?

Most of the evidence for the benefits of moringa in diabetes have been derived from animal studies. And these studies clearly show that moringa lowers blood sugar. However, evidence from human studies is still important to support findings in animal studies and determine appropriate dosing and possible side effects in humans. 

While few studies have investigated moringa’s benefits in humans, the available data is promising. 

In 2010, a team of scientists in India investigated the effect of taking 8g of moringa and 6g of neem leaf powder for 40 days on blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The cohort included 55 participants, 36 men and 19 women, between ages 30 and 60, registered at the Hospital of Acharya Nagarjuna University and Diabetic Care hospital, Guntur. 

In total, 46 participants were given moringa and neem, and the remaining 9 received no treatment. Participants who received moringa and neem reduced their fasting blood glucose by 28% and their post-meal blood glucose by 26%. However, blood glucose in the control group remained the same (Kumari, 2010).

Another study in 2014 investigated the effects of 7g of moringa leaf powder on blood glucose levels in menopausal women between ages 45 and 60 years. Although not explicitly stated, these women had prediabetes since their average fasting blood glucose at the start of the study was 106.7 mg/dl. After taking it daily for three months, the women consuming moringa reduced their fasting blood glucose by 13.5% to 91.5mg/dL (Kushwaha, Chawla & Kochhar, 2014).

A team of scientists in Algeria investigated the effects of adding 20g of moringa powder to a traditional meal of boiled rice and camel meat on blood sugar in individuals with type 2 diabetes. In total, 27 participants were included in the study; 17 with type 2 diabetes received a meal with moringa powder, and nine healthy individuals received the same meal but without moringa. 

After eating the meal, the researchers measured the participant’s blood sugar at 30-minute intervals for 180 mins. The meal with moringa significantly reduced the average blood glucose rise compared to the meal without moringa. However, the researchers reported that the participants found 20g of moringa unpalatable and suggested using lower doses in future studies (Leone et al., 2018). 

In a very recent study, scientists in Spain investigated the effects of moringa capsules, providing 2.4g of moringa leaf powder, on blood sugar levels in individuals with prediabetes. A total of 65 individuals were included in the study, with 31 receiving moringa and 34 a placebo for 12 weeks. After the treatment period, participants receiving moringa had significantly lower fasting blood glucose and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) than those receiving the placebo (Gomez-Martinez et al., 2022). 

A team of scientists in Cameroon investigated the effect of moringa leaf tea on blood glucose after eating in 15 individuals aged 20-29 years with normal blood glucose. The participants were divided into three groups; group 1 received 200ml of tea, group tea received 400ml of tea and group 3 received 200ml of water. 

Participants in all groups drank their tea and consumed a glucose-containing drink after five minutes. Their blood glucose was measured every 30 minutes for 150 minutes. At the 150-minute time point, participants in the moringa groups had significantly lower blood sugar than the water groups. 200ml of moringa tea reduced blood sugar by 17%, while 400ml reduced it by 19% (Fombang and Saa, 2016). 

While most of the studies have reported positive findings, a randomised controlled study in Thailand found that 4g of moringa daily for 28 days did not reduce blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. However, they stated that the duration of the study may have been too short to notice a significant difference (Taweerutchana et al., 2017). 

Overall, these studies show that whether taken as a powder, capsule, tea or added to food, moringa can significantly affect blood glucose levels in prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. 

How can you add moringa to your diet?

You can eat moringa leaves raw or cook with them. To cook with them, add the fresh leaves to stews, traditional soups (egusi, ogbono, benniseed, okra), or sauces such as pesto. You can roast the seeds to snack on, or you can add the dried leaf powder to smoothies and oatmeal, sprinkle it on breakfast cereals or stir it into yoghurt. 

How much moringa should you take?

Scientists need to conduct more research to determine the optimal dose of moringa. However, results so far show that moringa doses as little as 2.4g (half a teaspoon) per day effectively lower blood sugar. If you choose to add moringa to your food, please note that large amounts of moringa may leave a slightly bitter aftertaste.

What is the best type of moringa for diabetes?

All types of moringa, including dried powder, dried leaves, capsules and tea, effectively lower blood sugar in prediabetes and diabetes. You might find it easier to consume larger doses in a capsule, but the best type for you is the format you enjoy best. 

Does moringa cause side effects?

Moringa leaves are safe to consume and don’t seem to cause side effects when eaten. However, more long-term studies in humans are needed to study its safety profile comprehensively. 

The takeaway

Moringa is a nutrient-rich food with antioxidant compounds that lower blood sugar and may play a vital role in prediabetes. Although current evidence is promising, more long-term human studies are needed to study its safety profile and the optimal doses for blood sugar control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

Based on the available evidence, as little as half a teaspoon of the leaf powder daily for 12 weeks is enough to lower blood sugar effectively. I’ll highly recommend using moringa with a healthy, balanced diet to get the best out of it.  

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REFERENCES

  1. Saini, R.K., Sivanescan, I., Keum, Y-S. (2016) Phytochemicals of Moringa oleifera: a review of their nutritional, therapeutic and industrial significance. 3 Biotech; 6:203 DOI: 10.1007/s13205-016-0526-3.
  2. Kushwaha, S., Chawla, P., Kochhar, A. (2014) Effect of supplementation of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves powder on antioxidant profile and oxidative status among postmenopausal women. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 51 (11): 3464–3469.
  3. Kumari, D. J. (2010) Hypoglycaemic effect of Moringa oleifera and Azadirachta indica in type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Bioscan, 5, 211-214. 
  4. Chen, G-L., Xu, Y-B., Wu, J-L., Li, N., Guo, M-Q (2020) Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic effects of Moringa oleifera leaves and their functional chemical constituents. Food Chemistry, 333: 127478. Doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.127478. 
  5. Leone, A., Bertoli, S., Di Lello, S., Bassoli, A., Ravasenghi, S., Borgonovo, G., Forlani, F., & Battezzati, A (2018) Effect of Moringa oleifera leaf powder on postprandial blood glucose response: in vivo study on Saharawi people living in refugee camps. Nutrients, 10(10): 1494. 
  6. Gomez-Martinez, S., Diaz-Prieto, L.E., Castro, I.V., Jurado, C., Iturmendi, N., Martin-Ridaura, M.C., Calle, N., Duenas, M., Picon, M.J., Marcos, A., & Nova, E. (2022) Moringa oleifera leaf supplementation as a glycaemic control strategy in subjects with prediabetes. Nutrients, 14, 57.
  7. Taweerutchana, R., Lumlerdkij, N., Vannasaeng, S., Akarasereenont, P., Sriwijitkamol, A. (2017) Effect of Moringa oleifera leaf capsules on glycaemic control in therapy-naïve type 2 diabetes patients: a randomised placebo-controlled study. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, DOI: 10.1155/2017/6581390.
  8. Ahmad, J., Khan, I., Blundell, R. (2019) Moringa oleifera and glycaemic control: a review of current evidence and possible mechanisms. Phytotherapy Research; doi: 10.1002/ptr.6473M

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