diabetes supplements

Many people use dietary supplements such as cinnamon, magnesium, or vitamin D to help prevent or manage diabetes (a disease characterized by high blood sugar).

Research has focused primarily on the effects of dietary supplements in people with type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes develops over time as the body becomes resistant to insulin, which is simply a hormone that helps convert food into energy.

There is less data on the benefits of supplements for people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin.

Here’s what you need to know about the benefits and side effects of dietary supplements that may help lower blood sugar.

Important nutrients for diabetes

Keep in mind that the American Diabetes Association does not recommend the use of dietary supplements to control or prevent diabetes. Supplements have not been proven to consistently lower blood sugar.

With that in mind, here’s the latest evidence on the uses and side effects of oft-touted diabetes supplements.


Black woman taking medicine in living room at home.

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lipoic acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid that acts as an antioxidant. It has been studied to treat diabetes and its complications, such as:

But so far, there’s little evidence that it helps.

An extensive review of 10 studies concluded that alpha-lipoic acid does no Reduce the following in people with: type 2 diabetes Not just a placebo (sugar pill):

clinical trials on people with type 1 diabetes No difference in heme A1c (a measure of blood sugar control over the past few months) was found with alpha-lipoic acid compared with placebo.

Evidence for the effects of alpha-lipoic acid on neuropathy is mixed.

A systematic review reported that three of the eight trials studied showed improvements in symptoms in patients who took supplements, while the other five trials showed no improvement.

There is no evidence that alpha-lipoic acid helps kidney disease or macular edema.

Safety and precautions

In normal doses, alpha-lipoic acid is considered safe, even for people with heart disease, diabetes, and neurological conditions.

Possible side effects of this supplement include:

chromium

Chromium is a trace element found in foods such as meat, grains and produce.

It may enhance the effects of insulin and help break down sugar, but more research is needed to know for sure.

Evidence on the effects of chromium on diabetes is mixed.

A review of 10 studies concluded that chromium supplementation modestly improved HbA1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Chromium does not improve fasting blood sugar or cholesterol levels.

Safety and precautions

The effective intake of chromium for adults is 25 micrograms (mcg) per day for women and 35 micrograms (mcg) per day for women. The AI ​​drops to 30 mcg during pregnancy but increases to 45 mcg during lactation.

Taking chromium with insulin or glucophage (metformin) may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Watch for signs of hypoglycemia, such as:

  • tremble
  • Headache
  • fast heart rate

According to case reports, chromium may also cause the following side effects:

Cinnamon

The popular spice cinnamon has been studied in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes for its effects on:

According to an analysis of 16 clinical trials, cinnamon supplements may reduce fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (blood sugar levels not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes).

However, the researchers noted that more robust trials are needed because existing ones suffer from large variability.

Other extensive reviews suggest cinnamon can significantly lower blood pressure Cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes, including:

More research is needed to determine the effects of cinnamon in people with type 1 diabetes.

Safety and precautions

For most people, daily intakes of less than 6 grams (g) of cinnamon are safe.

However, there are reports of higher coumarin content in species such as cinnamon (Cinnamon). Over time, side effects of too much coumarin may include:

real cinnamon (Cinnamon), also known as Ceylon or Sri Lankan cinnamon, tends to be low in coumarin.

Other effects to be aware of include:

magnesium

The higher the levels of the mineral magnesium in the body, the lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Magnesium can lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a large systematic review of clinical trials.

It also improves insulin sensitivity in people at risk for diabetes. Conditions that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes include:

Magnesium supplements come in many different formulations, but magnesium oxide is the most studied in diabetes clinical trials.

Safety and precautions

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium for adults is 310 mg for women and 400 mg for men. This amount increases slightly as you age. Limit magnesium dosage to 350 milligrams (mg) per day.

You may get magnesium from food, including fortified products like cereals.

At higher doses, magnesium supplements can cause the following common side effects:

Daily doses exceeding 5,000 mg may cause toxicity. Please pay attention to the following warning signs:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Evidence for using omega-3 fatty acids to treat diabetes is mixed.

A review of 30 studies determined that omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood sugar and insulin resistance (when cells don’t respond well to insulin and cannot easily absorb glucose from the blood and require more insulin).

Results from another smaller review suggest that eating more omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, an analysis of 46 clinical trials showed that omega-3 fatty acids had no significant effect on blood sugar or insulin resistance.

In people with type 2 diabetes, omega-3 fatty acids did improve levels of:

Safety and precautions

The adequate intake (AI) of omega-3 for adults is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women, with a slight increase during pregnancy. If you eat fish or nuts regularly, you may get enough omega-3s. Omega-3 is also found in fortified foods such as eggs, yogurt, milk, juice, and cereal.

Omega-3 fatty acids generally do not cause serious side effects. However, high levels (more than 4 grams per day) of omega-3s modestly increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 may cause mild gastrointestinal effects as follows:

  • Bad breath
  • Heartburn
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

berberine

Berberine is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of medicine) to help lower blood sugar and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

A review of 46 clinical trials showed that berberine, whether used with or without standard diabetes medications, improved the following measurements related to diabetes control:

The effect of berberine plus standard diabetes medications was greater, but even berberine alone showed some benefit on HbA1c and fasting blood glucose values.

Safety and precautions

Berberine should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding because babies exposed to it may cause jaundice or brain damage.

Side effects of berberine include constipation and diarrhea.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in the body from ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

Research shows that getting enough vitamin D may help prevent type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Taking a daily supplement of 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) can help control or prevent type 1 diabetes.

Taking at least 1,000 IU daily for a year or more significantly reduces the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a review of nine clinical trials.

Interestingly, lower doses of vitamin D had no effect on diabetes risk.

Safety and precautions

The normal recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D in adults is 600 IU or 15 micrograms.

You may get extra vitamin D from food, including specially fortified products such as:

You can also get enough vitamin D through sunlight exposure. However, the following factors may make it difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight:

  • Living in high latitudes
  • Autumn and winter in cold climates
  • Living in a cloudy climate
  • darker skin

In these cases, supplementation is a viable option.

But be aware that high doses of vitamin D in supplements may cause the following side effects:

Discuss supplementation plans with your healthcare provider or RDN.

About diabetes

About 11% of Americans have diabetes, a disease characterized by high blood sugar.

If not well controlled, diabetes can reduce quality of life and lead to serious complications, including:

Typically, management involves lifestyle changes (such as exercise and a healthy diet) and medications (such as insulin or other prescription drugs).

Some dietary supplements may cause kidney damage, and people with diabetes are particularly vulnerable. If you have kidney disease, be especially careful about using supplements to help control blood sugar.

Ultimately, supplements are a poor substitute for diabetes medications that have been proven safe and effective.

If you have diabetes or are trying to prevent it, be sure to discuss the use of any supplements with your healthcare provider to optimize your health goals.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements the same way it regulates prescription drugs. This means that some supplement products may not contain what is on the label.

When choosing a supplement, look for products that have been third-party tested and talk to your health care provider, RD or RDN, or pharmacist.

generalize

So far, there is some evidence that dietary supplements such as cinnamon, berberine, and vitamin D can improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. However, these drugs do not replace FDA-approved diabetes drugs.

A healthy diet is crucial to preventing and controlling diabetes and its complications. A low-fat, high-fiber diet such as the Mediterranean diet can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Low-carb and vegan diets also modestly improved blood sugar levels.

Frequently asked questions


  • Which supplements are good for diabetes?

    If you have low magnesium or vitamin D levels, taking these supplements may help reduce your risk of diabetes.

    There is some evidence that berberine, cinnamon, and omega-3 fatty acids may benefit people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (blood sugar levels high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes).


  • Are cinnamon supplements good for diabetes?

    Although more research is needed, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.


  • Can diabetes supplements interact with prescription medications?

    Yes. For example, chromium can interact with insulin and other diabetes medications, causing hypoglycemia. Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the effects of blood thinners like Jantoven (warfarin) and cause excessive bleeding.

    To optimize safety and minimize side effects, discuss the use of any supplement you plan to take with your healthcare provider or pharmacist, who can screen for drug interactions with your current list of medications.

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