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Diabetes Management: 7 Helpful Supplements for Diabetes

June 27, 2019

Why do I need supplements for diabetes?


Among the people diagnosed with diabetes, those who are found to be dealing with malnutrition are found to have a 70% increase risk in dying a premature death. There is a list of ailments that can result from malnutrition. Some of these ailments are curable, while others are not. This being said, it is not ideal to even get to a point where your body is enduring any sickness that results from malnutrition. Instead, it would be wisest to prevent the situation altogether.


When speaking of malnutrition, people often associate it with undernutrition; however, overnutrition is also another form of malnutrition. If left without treatment, people with diabetes are highly prone to overnutrition. The bodies of people who struggle with diabetes lack the natural ability to regulate their blood glucose levels. This often contributes to a person with diabetes having hyperglycemia. As a result, people with diabetes must constantly work on regulating their blood sugar levels so that they are able to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. While trying to prevent their blood sugar from getting too high, it is very possible for people with diabetes to overcompensate or accidentally omit key nutrients from their diet. In a sense, people with diabetes are in a perpetual struggle between overnutrition and undernutrition, often making it especially difficult for them to find the correct balance between the two extremes.


Having a healthy diet, a consistent and sufficient exercise regimen, and strong maintenance of your body weight are the first and most important parts of diabetes treatment; however, this may not always be enough to maintain your blood sugar levels and proper nutrition. One of the ways to ease the burden of this struggle is through the use of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are often recommended because they help replenish your body with nutrients that may be missing from your diet without causing you to substantially increase your blood glucose levels. If you are having problems with your diet due to a lack of proper nutrition, you should select your nutritional supplements accordingly and consult a nutritionist to help fix your diet to a plan that is sustainable.


Some supplements are able to not only provide vitamins and minerals, but also help lower your blood glucose levels. There are many alternative treatments to diabetes that are found in the form of herbs and supplements that are supposed to help people with diabetes control their sugar levels, reduce their resistance to insulin, and prevent other diabetes-related complications; however, there is rather limited evidence for Western medicine to say that the efficacy of these alternatives may replace what your doctor has recommended for you in treating diabetes.


Nevertheless, the American Diabetes Association has found that people with diabetes are more likely to use dietary supplements than the rest of the population. Furthermore, the National Health Survey found that 22 percent of people with diabetes use some form of herbal therapy while 31 percent were found to be using some form of dietary supplement. It would not be a huge leap to assume that if such a large percentage of people are using these alternative medicines that they therefore must be helping at least to some degree. The problem with supplements in the United States is that the law makes it hard to institutionalize a program that may test the efficacy of supplements. This makes finding reliable information about the benefits and safety of these products difficult. It becomes even more difficult to figure out what works when there are countless herbs and supplements all making claims about their health benefits. If you are a person with diabetes who is trying to figure out whether or not to take dietary supplements, your main concern should be whether you are doing the right thing for your body. Everyone’s body is different, and everyone’s diet requires different things. To help you figure out what supplements and/or herbs may benefit your body, we have compiled a list that explains what each given supplement can safely do for you.

1. Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)


One of the symptoms of diabetes is increased oxidative stress that contributes to the progression and development of the disease. Many have then believed that antioxidants could be used as a form of complementary therapeutic treatment. In 2011, Frontiers in Pharmacology published a review of the known information about alpha-lipoic acid as a supplement for people with diabetes. The review explains the known biochemical properties of lipoic acid and how these properties allow it to reduce oxidative stress in patients with diabetes. As a consequence, it also has the potential to lower fasting blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance. The review explains that our knowledge of alpha-lipoic acid is not yet comprehensive, and the verdict is still out on its level of efficacy; however, the one thing that alpha-lipoic acid has been consistent on is its beneficial use in diabetic neuropathy. If you do decide to try using alpha-lipoic acid supplements, be sure to take it with caution as large quantities have the ability to reduce your blood sugar to dangerously low levels.


2. Bitter Melon


In 2018, McGill University published an article explaining the contentious state in which the scientific community holds bitter melon. There are many tests and trials that have shown statistical significance in the positive influence of bitter melon on key diabetic markers such as glucose levels, insulin levels, and glucose uptake rates. Although there were numerous accounts of bitter melon having a profound influence on the health of people with diabetes, there have also been many studies that show that there is little to no influence provided by the consumption of bitter melon. McGill cited a 2015 study that concluded that the study’s “95 participants confirmed the hypoglycemic effects of bitter melon, but found it offered poor glycemic control compared to glibenclamide.” This basically meant that bitter melon could slightly help as a complementary treatment, but it could not be used to replace actual doctor prescribed medication. Though its results may be limited, bitter melon can still have some level of efficacy as a supplement.


3. Cinnamon


In 2011, the Journal of Medicinal Food published a study that was conducted to understand whether or not cinnamon had any natural benefits to the human body. For hundreds of years, the Chinese have popularly used cinnamon as a natural remedy to boost the body’s wellness. The study references a total of eight different clinical trials that were conducted to better understand how the consumption of cinnamon in both its whole form or as an extract would affect a person with type 2 diabetes and their fasting blood glucose. Through these studies, the authors found that there was statistical significance that showed that the consumption of cinnamon leads to the lowering of fasting blood glucose.

4. Chromium


Chromium has been proven to be an essential mineral that plays a beneficial role in the body’s ability to regulate insulin action. It has also been found to have notable effects on the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In 2004, the scientific journal The Diabetes Educator published a work explaining that people with type 2 diabetes have lower levels of chromium in their blood compared to the rest of the population. They found that people with diabetes who have chromium deficits in their blood have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The study also references several other studies that have demonstrated that chromium supplements have been linked to lowering risk factors that lead to these cardiovascular diseases, especially in those who are overweight. Though many studies have shown that chromium supplements are safe for humans, its consumption should still be taken with caution and more importantly, moderation. Though chromium can lower blood sugar, it is possible for it to lower blood sugar too much, and having your blood sugar dip too low can be life-threatening. Furthermore, consuming chromium at very high doses can lead to kidney failure.


5. Green Tea


Green tea has been gaining popularity throughout the years, whether through local tea shops opening up or through online articles expressing the health benefits of green tea. According to Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, green tea contains sources of catechins and epicatechins which are the compounds part of a plant chemical group called flavonoids that produce the health benefits tea is so known for. As shown in research, these flavonoids are able to suppress inflammation which can thus decrease plaque accumulation within arteries. In large population-based studies, the results demonstrated that those who drank green tea regularly were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. While the health benefits of green tea may sound tempting to achieve, it is important to recognize that drinking green tea religiously as a form of medicine can be damaging to the kidneys and possibly cause kidney stones. Drinking green tea in moderation will maximize its positive effects on the body; one has to simply make sure not to add a substantial amount of extra sugar in his/her drinks.


6. Magnesium


Because type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) is commonly associated with a deficit in magnesium, consuming magnesium supplements can potentially benefit one’s health. In addition, magnesium metabolism is regulated by insulin and glucose, and intracellular magnesium is very important in regulating insulin action. Magnesium is an electrolyte of the highest physiological importance. A deficiency in magnesium in the body has shown to be present among those with DM2, especially in individuals who have glycemic profiles that are poorly controlled. The oral magnesium supplement has demonstrated an improvement of fasting blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in DM2 patients as well as decreasing the C-reactive protein levels in prediabetic patients. Though supplementing the magnesium deficiency can benefit the DM2 condition, there must be more prospective studies to confirm and support this claim.


7. Vitamin B-1


Thiamine (Vitamin B-1) acts as a coenzyme for a variety of enzymes that play a vital part in glucose metabolism. In much of medical literature, it has been shown that people with diabetes have significantly decreased levels of thiamine and thiamine-dependent enzyme activities. In 2012, the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research provided a study that demonstrated the benefits of the intake of thiamine by patients with diabetes. Through the study, they were able to find that thiamine proved to prevent the biochemical processes that were responsible for hyperglycemia. The study was able to conclude that “[t]hiamine definitively has a role in the diabetic endothelial vascular diseases (micro and macroangiopathy), lipid profile, retinopathy, nephropathy, cardiopathy, and neuropathy.” Thiamine is naturally water-soluble, making it difficult for cells to absorb and utilize. That being said, benfotiamine is a supplemental form of thiamine that is lipid-soluble, making it easily absorbed by cells. If you plan on taking Vitamin B-1 supplements, benfotiamine is the ideal form that you should be taking.

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