8 Nutritional Supplements Diabetics Might Need

Annette McDermott
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Diabetic gear

Diabetic nutritional supplements can provide a way to help stabilize and possibly lessen the effects of the ailment. However, before using, it's important to learn all you can about the nutritional supplements needed for diabetics.

Types of Diabetic Nutritional Supplements

Diabetic supplements are readily available from your local pharmacy or natural health store. They're most commonly found in the form of capsules, tablets, or liquid extracts.

If you're considering adding nutritional supplements to your diabetes treatment plan, discuss the pros and cons of the following options with your doctor. Individuals may react differently to supplements, so supplementation should only be done under the supervision and guidance of a doctor.

Chromium

Since diabetes is directly linked to blood sugar management, it is no surprise a common supplement used to fight the disease is chromium. This mineral may have a big impact on how sensitive the body is to insulin. In fact, Web MD indicates that studies show chromium may help control diabetes and lists it on its website as a potential natural treatment for the disease.

While chromium may be an option for people already diagnosed with diabetes, it doesn't appear to prevent the disease. A study published in the Endocrine Practice journal concludes that the supplement is not likely to reduce the chance of high risk people developing type 2 diabetes.

Vanadyl Sulfate

Vanadyl sulfate, which is the most commonly sold form of vanadium, has shown itself to also increase insulin sensitivity. A National Institutes of Health abstract found vanadyl sulfate to significantly improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients treated with a stronger dose of the supplement and for a longer period than previous studies.

While this study is promising, it's important to note that the long-term effects of taking Vanadyl sulfate in large doses are largely unknown. In addition, the supplement may interact with other medications or cause unwanted side effects. As a result, be sure to check with your doctor before making it a regular part of your long-term supplementation regimen.

Fiber

You likely know it's great for general gut health and regularity, but some fiber is also good for managing blood sugar swings. Since soluble fiber -including oatmeal, nuts, lentils, beans and some fruits and vegetables- takes time and effort for the stomach to process, it effectively slows down any potential release of blood sugar. A slower release of blood sugar means less need for dramatic insulin spikes, which is good news for pre-diabetics and diabetics alike.

Joslin Diabetes Center's website cites a study in the New England Journal of England that determined diabetics who ate at least 50 grams of fiber per day, especially soluble fiber, had better insulin control than those who ate less. Fiber also fills you up while adding little or no calories to the diabetic diet. Since being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, adding high fiber foods to your diet can play a key part of your weight-loss regimen.

Magnesium

The University of Maryland Medical Center's (UMM) website states that people with type 2 diabetes often have low magnesium levels. They also mention a study of 2,000 people showing that magnesium rich diets may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, excess magnesium can cause serious cardiac, respiratory, or digestive side effects so it's critical to only use under a doctor's supervision.

American Ginseng

According to National Institutes of Health's MedLine Plus, American ginseng contains gisenosides, chemical compounds believed to lower blood sugar. These gisenosides may help lower blood sugar levels after meals in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, MedLine Plus recommends taking three grams of American ginseng by mouth up to two hours before a meal.

Bilberry

UMM's website states that research shows bilberry, an edible fruit closely related to the blueberry, may help regulate blood sugar, especially when eaten with oatmeal. Bilberry supplements are usually found in the form of an extract; however, capsules are also available. While MedLine Plus doesn't endorse bilberry to treat diabetes, it does suggest that the herb may increase blood circulation and help treat retina disorders caused by diabetes.

Gamma Linolenic Acid

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid commonly found in plant oils such as evening primrose oil. Although GLA is considered critical for optimum health, the body does not make it on its own. GLA must be obtained through supplements or food.

GLA is believed to help reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, a painful nerve condition. A double blind study on 111 diabetics suffering from mild, diabetes-related neuropathy, found GLA to have a beneficial effect, especially in patients whose diabetes was well-controlled.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

An important antioxidant known for its ability to combat free radicals in the body, alpha lipoic acid (LA) may also help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. A National Institute of Health abstract reviews a UC Davis Medical Center study which concluded that LA offers benefits to type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients with diabetic neuropathy.

Supplements as Part of a Diabetes Treatment Plan

Diabetes treatments can be complex. In some cases, making diet and exercise adjustments is all that's needed to stabilize blood sugar. In others, insulin shots may be necessary. Either way, adding a nutritional supplement may help boost your overall efforts towards combating diabetes and increasing your quality of life. Speak to your physician to find out if supplements are a good idea for your specific situation.

8 Nutritional Supplements Diabetics Might Need