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Fenugreek: Overview of Potential Health Benefits

Singletary, Keith W. PhD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000209
Culinary Spices Series

The objectives of this article are to provide a brief overview of the scientific literature regarding the use of fenugreek in the management of hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia and suggest recommendations for additional research. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L., family Fabaceae) is an annual herb with triangular yellow flowers and seed-containing pods that grows in countries of the Mediterranean, Middle East, India, China, and, more recently, Canada. Fenugreek seed or its extracts are found in food products such as frozen dairy products, gelatin puddings, candy, and gravy sauces and in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. An extract of fenugreek also is used as a flavoring ingredient in imitation maple syrup. Fenugreek has a history of use in traditional medicine in India and China. Its uses include as a treatment of weakness and leg edema, as a lactation and appetite stimulant, and as a remedy for indigestion, baldness, and fever. Some have used it topically for myalgia, wound treatment, and cellulitis. One potential benefit of fenugreek is improving elevated blood glucose and lipid levels associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Human investigations suggest that fenugreek can be beneficial as an adjunct in controlling high blood glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes. However, larger, adequately powered, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials examining multiple measures of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and insulin homeostasis are needed.

Keith W. Singletary, PhD, is professor emeritus of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. From 2001 to 2004, he was the director of the Functional Foods for Health Program, an interdisciplinary program between the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses of the University of Illinois. Dr Singletary received bachelor and master's degrees in microbiology from Michigan State University and his PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Illinois. Dr Singletary's primary research interests are in molecular carcinogenesis and cancer chemoprevention, specifically identifying and determining the mechanism of action of phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, and spices as cancer protective agents. He has been recognized with the Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. Dr Singletary currently resides in Florida.

Funds for the preparation of this manuscript were provided by McCormickInc.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (www.nutritiontodayonline.com).

Correspondence: Keith W. Singletary, PhD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, 260 Bevier Hall, 905 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801 (kws@illinois.edu).

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