Background and aim: Fenugreek is a herb that is widely used in cooking and as a traditional medicine for diabetes in Asia. It has been shown to acutely lower postprandial glucose levels, but the long-term effect on glycemia remains uncertain. We systematically reviewed clinical trials of the effect of fenugreek intake on markers of glucose homeostasis.
Methods: PubMed, SCOPUS, the Cochrane Trials Registry, Web of Science, and BIOSIS were searched up to 29 Nov 2013 for trials of at least 1 week duration comparing intake of fenugreek seeds with a control intervention. Data on change in fasting blood glucose, 2 hour postload glucose, and HbA1c were pooled using random-effects models.
Results: A total of 10 trials were identified. Fenugreek significantly changed fasting blood glucose by -0.96 mmol/l (95% CI: -1.52, -0.40; I² = 80%; 10 trials), 2 hour postload glucose by -2.19 mmol/l (95% CI: -3.19, -1.19; I² = 71%; 7 trials) and HbA1c by -0.85% (95% CI: -1.49%, -0.22%; I² = 0%; 3 trials) as compared with control interventions. The considerable heterogeneity in study results was partly explained by diabetes status and dose: significant effects on fasting and 2 hr glucose were only found for studies that administered medium or high doses of fenugreek in persons with diabetes. Most of the trials were of low methodological quality.
Conclusions: Results from clinical trials support beneficial effects of fenugreek seeds on glycemic control in persons with diabetes. However, trials with higher methodology quality using a well characterized fenugreek preparation of sufficient dose are needed to provide more conclusive evidence.