Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds have been documented as a traditional plant treatment for diabetes. In the present study, the antidiabetic properties of a soluble dietary fibre (SDF) fraction of T. foenum-graecum were evaluated. Administration of SDF fraction (0 x 5 g/kg body weight) to normal, type 1 or type 2 diabetic rats significantly improved oral glucose tolerance. Total remaining unabsorbed sucrose in the gastrointestinal tract of non-diabetic and type 2 diabetic rats, following oral sucrose loading (2 x 5 g/kg body weight) was significantly increased by T. foenum-graecum (0 x 5 g/kg body weight). The SDF fraction suppressed the elevation of blood glucose after oral sucrose ingestion in both non-diabetic and type 2 diabetic rats. Intestinal disaccharidase activity and glucose absorption were decreased and gastrointestinal motility increased by the SDF fraction. Daily oral administration of SDF to type 2 diabetic rats for 28 d decreased serum glucose, increased liver glycogen content and enhanced total antioxidant status. Serum insulin and insulin secretion were not affected by the SDF fraction. Glucose transport in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and insulin action were increased by T. foenum-graecum. The present findings indicate that the SDF fraction of T. foenum-graecum seeds exerts antidiabetic effects mediated through inhibition of carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancement of peripheral insulin action.