Safely Using Vitamins & Supplements to Control Your Diabetes

Diabetics tend to be more educated than the average person, in regards to their daily diet. They are faced with issues of dietsm, and trying to follow the dietary guidelines for Diabetics. More fruits and vegetables, less fats, and more fiber is more important for a diabetic than for others.

Some people say that if you eat a proper diet you should not need extra vitamins or minerals. But, even people who eat the Recommended Daily Allowance of fruits and vegetables are not getting the proper amount of vitamins in their diet. The fruit and vegetables we consume today are lacking the full amounts of nutrients we need.

It takes so long from the time the fruits are harvested to get to our mouths, that much of the original nutrients have been depleted. Water can be an enemy to nutrients, boiling vegetables leaves some of the nutrients in the water and using water softeners take the magnesium out of food. Commercial produce in America has suffered from chemicals in farming. In fact, organic produce has almost double the amount of nutrients than commercially grown produce.

The vitamins in fruits and vegetables we eat contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are believed to help protect the body against free-radical damage. They help reduce oxidative stress and fight off free radicals throughout the body. Free Radicals cause buildup and clogging in blood vessels and can lead to health complications. Antioxidants, like vitamin E, have been shown to be beneficial for common complications of diabetes. Vitamins also help your insulin function and help lower your blood sugar levels.

A lot of people know that antioxidants are good for their bodies, but still question, “How much is too much” and “Which ones are better for specific health concerns”. Studies have proven that antioxidants help prevent diabetic complications including neuropathy and retinopathy. Therefore, it would be beneficial for diabetics to consider adding supplements to their diet.

Before you overload your body with mega-doses of vitamins containing antioxidants, you should be warned that more is not always better. People can overdose on certain vitamins and actually damage their body. You need to know how much is too much, depending on each particular vitamin or supplement.

You should check with your physician before you begin taking supplements. Make sure the levels of each supplement are safe for your body type and that they don’t cause any complications with prescriptions you may be taking for a particular ailment(s).

George Blackburn, MD, associate editor of Health News, reports in a story on vitamins that “only healthy adults should take nutrient supplements without a doctor’s guidance…anyone with a disease or chronic medical condition should take supplements only under medical supervision.”

Vitamins for Diabetes

Niacin has many health benefits in the general population, but people with diabetes need to be more careful. Niacin in high doses can help to reduce cholesterol levels, but it also increases glucose levels. It is recommended that diabetics stay close to the standard recommendation of 20 milligrams per day.

Niacin is found in variety of foods including liver, chicken, beef, fish, cereal, peanuts and legumes and is also synthesized from tryptophan, which is found in meat, dairy and eggs. Fruit, vegetable and other sources of Niacin include; avocados, dates, tomatoes, leaf vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grain products, legumes, saltbush seeds, mushrooms and brewer’s yeast.

Selenium and vitamin E supplements taken together play a role in controlling oxidative status and altered lipid metabolism in the liver, according to a French study, published in April of 1998. The recommended daily Selenium dose for people with diabetes given by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, author of Herbal Defense, a natural healing specialist from Seattle, is 400 micrograms per day.

Chromium, usually taken as chromium picolinate to improve blood sugars, is a highly debated diabetes topic. Experts disagree on whether or not chromium decreases HbA1c levels, and both have studies to back them up. A review was published in January of 1998 in the Journal of Family Practice, of the evidence on chromium supplementation for diabetes, it states that, “There is some evidence, including results from human studies, that chromium has a role in glucose homeostasis.” The authors then call for more studies, because of chromium’s “unproven benefits and unknown risks.” Nutrition experts say the typical supplement’s levels of chromium, about 400 micrograms per day, can’t do any harm.

Alpha-lipoic acid has produced convincing evidence of it’s ability to aid in glucose control. It has also proven to be a strong antioxidant in the fight against diabetes In a recent human studies, alpha-lipoic acid alone, significantly reduced glucose levels in type 2 Diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care in February 2009, shows German doctors gave lean and obese type 2 Diabetes Patients 600 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid twice per day. Although more drastic changes were noted in lean people, both groups had lower fasting glucose concentrations. Researchers believe that alpha-lipoic acid works by lowering the levels of lactate and pyruvate that are increased after people ingest carbohydrates. Lactate and pyruvate are products of the digestive process that can lead to damage like lactic acidosis.

Other studies have led to similar conclusions of alpha-lipoic acid’s beneficial effects on blood glucose levels. ABC news did a television story on its power as an antioxidant, and an entire book has been written about it.

“Lipoic Acid in Health and Disease” is edited by Jurgen Fuchs, MD, PhD, and Guido Zimmer, MD, PhD, of Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and Lester Packer, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley.
The book contains numerous studies with evidence that alpha-lipoic acid fights insulin resistance and neuropathy.

Natural Health magazine says in its “Consumer Guide to Vitamins & Minerals,” July-August 1998 issue, “100 to 600 milligrams per day is a helpful amount of alpha-lipoic acid for people with diabetes.”

Gamma-linolenic acid (Evening Primrose Oil) has been shown to improve nerves that have been damaged from diabetes. Its natural sources are evening primrose oil and borage oil. Testing of both alpha-lipoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid in combination for diabetes treatment has been coduced in recent years.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen found promise for future studies of gamma-linolenic acid and alpha-lipoic acid in humans. The April 1998 Diabetologia, revealed the effects of alpha-lipoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and other essential fatty acid ingestion on the nerve function of diabetic rats. The conclusion was that the combination improved the rats’ nerve function and is “worthy of consideration for clinical trials.”

A few months later, another study confirmed this evidence. The July Diabetologia told of a British study, also of alpha-lipoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid on diabetic rats. The final word was the combination “is effective in improving both electrophysiological and neurochemical” aspects of experimental neuropathy.

Natural Health recommends 200 to 500 milligrams per day of gamma-linolenic acid for people with diabetes.
Vanadium, commonly taken as vanadyl sulfate, is another contested substance. There have been claims made about its effects of lowering insulin requirements and even preserving beta cell function, but skeptics say
side effects are harmful. Vanadium has been studied throughout the 1990s. In 1996 the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, published in May 1996 Diabetes, reported that vanadyl sulfate improved type 2 Diabetes’ insulin sensitivity. As time went on, studies either verified or disputed this conclusion. One said it has no effect in type diabetes (December 1998 Diabetes Care). Another demonstrated that it “restored elevated blood glucose to normal” in diabetic rats.

John Walsh, PA, CDE, coauthor of “Stop the Rollercoaster,” wants more long-term, human studies done, because vanadyl sulfate in high doses has also shown toxic side effects in animals, including kidney damage and oxidation
of fats, leading to cardiovascular disease. Walsh concludes, “Vanadium or one of its derivatives may someday help improve blood sugar…” but “too many unknowns surround this mineral today.” Scientists are working on different formulations of vanadium besides vanadyl sulfate for dietary supplementation.

Natural Health magazine says 5 to 25 milligrams per day is a safe amount.

Folic Acid has been brought to the limelight by its ability to reduce birth defects, it has also been attributed to helping with vascular disease in people with diabetes. It is said to act upon homocysteine levels in the body. Homocysteine is a substance normally metabolized into amino acids by the body but in high levels it can cause vascular problems and heart disease. Two groups are known to have problems metabolizing homocysteine; people with a rare genetic problem that causes early heart attacks and people with diabetes.

The standard recommendation or safe level of Folic Acid is 800 – 1600 micrograms of per day. The only precaution is that, (although rare), extreme doses of folic acid can mask symptoms of anemia.

B vitamins, including folic acid, are known to counter the bad effects of high homocysteine levels, and folic acid has also been named as a homocysteine fighter. In 1997, a Scandinavian journal, reported that homocysteine concentrations in type 1 Diabetics “may at least partly be explained by a marginal deficiency of blood folate concentrations.”

In the June 1998 Diabetologia, a group of doctors in Barcelona explains their study of homocysteine and diabetes. “A high plasma homocysteine concentration is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease but information on its association with diabetes is limited,” they begin. They also note that people with nephropathy, or kidney disease, have a particular tendency to cardiovascular disease.

They conducted a study to see if high homocysteine levels are a cardiovascular danger in people with diabetes, as they are in the general population. The study looked at fasting homocysteine concentrations in type 1 and type 2 Diabetics, and people without diabetes. They found that 80 percent of the diabetic people with nephropathy
had high homocysteine levels. The authors conclude that, particularly in type 2 diabetes, there is “a new link between microalbuminuria, diabetic nephropathy and kidney disease.”

In November of 1998 the Diabetes Journal published “Diabetes Care” where they found little evidence of homocysteine causing vascular disease in type 1 Diabetes, so as of now the evidence says lowering homocysteine is more crucial in people with type 2 diabetes.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish, flaxseed and canola oil, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower triglyceride levels, but final word on their effect on glucose control still eludes researchers.

The latest word from Diabetes Care is that omega-3 fatty acids do help with triglycerides and don’t alter glucose levels in the process. A study in the May 1998 issue reports that 6 grams of fish oil per day lowered triglycerides in type 2 Diabetic men and had no effect on fasting glucose or HbA1c levels.

Three to five grams per day, of fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements, aid in diabetes management, according to Natural Health’s consumer guide Magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency is a problem in diabetes, it contributes to complications including hypertension and heart disease. Most people are unaware of a magnesium deficiency, and it is often it is missed during routine checkups. Many Diabetic diets don’t have a lot of magnesium, nuts and shrimp have large magnesium amounts. When supplementing Magnesium, 800 milligrams is recommended twice per day.

*To learn more on DRI’s for Magnesium, please refer to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 – Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Magnesium, Mg (mg).

Pycnogenol has not been tested in people with diabetes, but studies have proven its success as an antioxidant. A study done in 1996 from Ophthalmic Research, proves that Pycnogenol fights lipid peroxidation in animal trials.
Lipid peroxidation is a prominent feature of diabetic retinopathy.

The long-term effect of large doses of these nutrients has not been proven. Other chemicals and substances found in natural sources of antioxidants may also be responsible for the beneficial effects. So for now, the best way to ensure adequate intake of the antioxidant nutrients is through minimal supplementation and eating a balanced diet consisting of 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Another source for avoiding excessive intake is a book, Vitamin and Mineral Safety, published by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, which is associated with the supplement industry. This book gives the “no observed
adverse effect level,” for certain vitamins and minerals; it is the highest daily level at which studies have shown no damage to be reported in humans.

The RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowance, you see on food labels does not apply to supplementation. The RDA is only the amount needed to avoid deficiency. The RDAs were dictated before scientists discovered that taking
large amounts of some substances can prevent disease. Thus, the government is now testing how much is too much.

The USDA Online Agricultural Library provides links to general information about dietary and nutritional supplements from both governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations. Including resource lists, individual supplement information, and links to resources for assessing supplement use.

Explore posts in the same categories: diabetes, Eating Healthy, General, Herbs for Diabetes, Supplements, Vitamins for Diabetes

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2 Comments on “Safely Using Vitamins & Supplements to Control Your Diabetes”


  1. Usually I do not article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Thanks, quite nice article.

  2. Catering Says:

    Thank you for your post. I like it! Greetings!


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