Best Supplements for Diabetes

Having the right diet plus taking the right supplements for diabetes can really help you get a grip on your blood sugar swings.

My previous pages have talked extensively about the former, now we'll discuss which supplements can actually make a difference to your condition.

I'm sure you want to know not only what these supplements are but also whether there's any evidence that they can help you reverse the condition.

Chromium

Chromium is a trace mineral that is a vital constituent of the "glucose tolerance factor", a compound produced by the liver that helps transport glucose from the blood to the cells. Chromium works closely with insulin in facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells.

Without chromium, insulin's action is blocked and blood sugar levels are elevated.

So chromium's key benefit is helping insulin work properly. Biologically active chromium attaches tightly to insulin, enhancing by up to one hundred times the hormone's ability to do its job.

Because chromium increases insulin efficacy, you need less to do the job, hence the pancreas doesn't have to work as hard to produce insulin.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, chromium can help regulate blood sugar, often reducing medication and insulin needs. If you are on the verge of diabetes, chromium may save you from a plunge into fully-fledged disease. If your glucose tolerance is borderline, chromium can fix it. Even if your blood sugar is low instead of high, chromium can yank it back up to normal.

Whatever the blood sugar problem, chromium tends to normalize it, says Richard A. Anderson, PhD, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Betsville, Maryland.

Causes of Chromium Deficiency

whole grains are a good source of chromium

Chromium deficiency is common in people with type 2 diabetes and may contribute not only to the insulin resistance but also to the elevations in triglycerides and cholesterol levels.

Continued stress or frequent sugar consumption deplete the body of chromium.

A diet high in refined foods is also likely to be deficient in this mineral since it's found in whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and especially in mushrooms and asparagus.

People with diabetes have been found to have lower levels of chromium circulating in their blood than people without the disease.

Chromium supplements for diabetes have been used successfully in the treatment of the condition.

A 2007 meta-analysis - a study that pools the results of other studies - found that in people with type 2 diabetes, chromium supplementation improved their levels of hemoglobin A1c (a common indicator of long-term blood sugar control) by 0.6%, which is a nice improvement, since a 1% drop has been associated with a 20% lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

A study mentioned in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that total cholesterol levels in subjects who took chromium supplements also fell more than 20 points on average.

Supplements with 1,000 mcg. per day had the greatest effect, though doses as low as 200 mcg. daily did significantly lower blood cholesterol.

Because it's a trace mineral, you don't need huge amounts. Although there's no Recommended Dietary Allowance for chromium, experts believe that we need at least 200 mcg. each day in our diet.

When it comes to dealing with impaired glucose tolerance and to facilitate weight loss, many recommend between 400 to 600 mcg  of the supplements for diabetes per day.

Some Chromium Rich Foods

It's all very well to take supplements for diabetes, but without the right diet they will not solve your problem. So choose as many of the following foods as you can to include in your every day diet.

Food Chromium in mcg.
per 100 g. of food
egg yolk 183
Brewer's yeast 112
cheese 56
liver 55
wine 45
bread, wholemeal 42
rye bread 30
chilli, fresh 30
apple peel 27
potatoes, old 27
oysters 26
potatoes, new 21
spaghetti 15
cornflakes 14
broccoli 11
spinach 10
egg white 8
oranges 5
apples, peeled 1


Avoid Foods that Deplete Chromium

refined carbs

While you make sure you include chromium rich foods in your diet, it may help to steer clear of sugar and refined grain products such as white flour.

These foods are not only low in chromium, they also increase chromium loss from the body.

Loss of the mineral is also increased by the stresses of infection, strenuous exercise and pregnancy.

Some may find it difficult to get the necessary amount of chromium with diet alone. This is why to take chromium supplements for diabetes makes sense.

If you're going to supplement, you should be aware that chromium is included in most multivitamins, usually in amounts ranging from 100 to 200 mcg, so additional supplementation may not be necessary.

Buy Chromium Supplements


Magnesium

spinach leaves

People with diabetes - especially those with poor blood sugar control - are often low in magnesium.

The problem is even worse in those who have diabetes-related heart disease or a type of eye damage known as retinopathy.

Studies have shown that getting more of this mineral in your diet can help your body produce more insulin and use it more efficiently, improve cholesterol and maintain healthier blood vessels.

In Harvard's Nurses Health Study, women who had more magnesium in their diets had a significantly lower likelihood of developing diabetes.

Magnesium does this by increasing insulin sensitivity and the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

A study published in the Journal of Diabetic Medicine found that an average of 12 weeks of magnesium supplementation was associated with lower fasting glucose levels and increased HDL 'good' cholesterol. The average dose was 360 mg.

The recommended daily intake for magnesium is 400 to 420 mg. for men and 310 to 320 mg. for non-pregnant women, but diabetic people may need twice that amount.

It's not too hard to get that much with the right diet, but unfortunately most people are miles away from that target.

Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains such as brown rice, barley and oats as well as green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. Many bean varieties are also very rich in magnesium.

Some Magnesium Rich Foods

Food magnesium in mg.
1/2 halibut fillet 170
1 cup boiled spinach 157
1oz. pumpkin seeds 151
1 cup white beans 134
1 oat bran muffin 89

For a more complete list of magnesium rich foods click on the link.


Useful tip:

People who supplement with magnesium, should supplement with at least 50 mg. of vitamin B6 as well. Without vitamin B6, magnesium doesn't get inside the cell and is therefore useless.


Buy Magnesium Supplements



Calcium and Vitamin D

If you have done some research on diabetes, you might have noticed that some people recommend eating dairy products for diabetes and others suggest that milk causes diabetes. Who to believe?

The research I've done has brought me to the conclusion that there might be some merits to eating low-fat dairy foods. I must stress the 'low-fat' part though.

Full-fat dairy products contain a lot of saturated fats and they've been linked to many conditions, such as high cholesterol levels, heart disease and much more.

But low-fat dairy foods, on the other hand, have been found to directly help protect against insulin resistance and diabetes.

Milk and dairy foods are, of course, rich in calcium and vitamin D, and fat-free milk actually has more calcium than whole milk, and it might be the only good source of vitamin D you're likely to find in your kitchen.

A 2007 review of earlier research showed a relatively consistent association between low vitamin D levels and dairy intake and the presence of type 2 diabetes.

Some research suggests that in people with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, vitamin D and calcium supplementation may help prevent the condition from progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

A 20-year study by Boston researchers of almost 84,000 nurses, none of whom had diabetes at the study's start, found that women who took 1,200 mg. of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D per day had a 33% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who consumed much lower amounts.

On a previous page I discussed how a low fat vegan diet has been shown to even reverse diabetes. So you can be successful in the treatment of diabetes even without eating dairy foods, but the rest of your diet must include as many vegetarian sources of calcium and vitamin D as possible, or indeed take supplements.

Buy Calcium Supplements

Buy Vitamin D Supplements


Antioxidants

How do antioxidants help with diabetes? They neutralize unstable, cell-damaging molecules called free radicals. Research suggests that people with diabetes have more free radicals than people without the disease.

Free radicals may play a role both in causing diabetes and in exacerbating its long-term effects, such as clogged arteries and blood vessel and nerve damage.

Either high blood sugar or high insulin levels may cause a free radical invasion.

Where do you find antioxidants? Well, that seems quite obvious, if you've been reading this website regularly. Fruits and vegetables are very rich in all sorts of antioxidants compounds (read my newsletter to find out more about them). It makes also good sense to take antioxidant supplements for diabetes and other health conditions.

Buy Antioxidant Supplements


Aim for: Five or six servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit every day. A serving is one medium piece of fruit; 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetable juice; 1/2 cup of chopped fruit or cooked vegetables or beans; or 1 cup of leafy vegetables.

If you decide to take supplements for diabetes, make sure they're of the best quality and easily absorbed, otherwise you might waste your money.

We've seen how the mineral magnesium is essential in fighting diabetes. Click on NEXT to find out which foods are rich in magnesium or go back to the Treatment of Diabetes main page to select another article.


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