Supplements and Diabetes – What’s the Connection?

Mathews McGarryImmune Health0 Comments

Type 2 diabetes is caused when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. The result are unbalanced blood glucose levels. There is no cure for diabetes, but with exercise, diet and the right medication (such as sulfonylureas, insulin therapy, meglitinides and metformin), one is able to manage blood glucose levels.

Sometimes, maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity and a healthy diet are the most important parts of treating diabetes. When it comes to supplements, people manage their type 2 diabetes with supplements like magnesium and omega-3s. Many people use dietary supplements as well as other forms of complementary or alternative medicines. But can these therapies really help? Research on certain supplements has shown that they can very well help with type 2 diabetes treatment. However, you should consult your doctor first, because some of them can interfere with the condition.


Magnesium is a mineral responsible for proper heart rhythm, muscle functions, healthy bones and normal blood pressure. It is linked to insulin sensitivity and lower insulin production, and diabetics tend to be low on magnesium. Thus, taking magnesium can be helpful, as well as eating magnesium-rich foods such as tuna, oat bran, spinach, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, halibut and almonds.


As a supplement, chromium is sold as chromium nicotinate, chromium chloride and chromium picolinate. It is found in foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-wheat and rye breads, spices, meat and fish. Chromium is an essential trace mineral and a metal which naturally helps in reducing blood sugar levels. However, there is no relevant evidence that it can actually be of help in diabetes management. Taking chromium over long periods of time can cause side effects, usually kidney issues (which people with diabetes already have).


Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Also known as ALA, lipoic or thioctic acid. It is an antioxidant, a substance similar to a vitamin, and it protects against cell damage by free radicals. ALA supplements are taken by diabetics because they help their bodies use insulin more efficiently. It is naturally occurring in broccoli, spinach, potatoes and liver. However, one must be cautious because ALA may interact with certain cancer drugs and lower blood levels of iron. Because of that, more research on the benefits of ALA is needed.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 are the good fats. They come from wheat germ, vegetable oils (soybean and canola), fish and walnuts. As supplements, Omega-3 is available in the form of oils and capsules. These fatty acids are known for their many benefits, but studies show that they don’t affect good cholesterol (HDL), total cholesterol, or blood glucose control in people with diabetes. It is suggested that they can raise bad cholesterol (LDL).


Protein supplements are advised only to those who have a greater need for them – older adults, those ill or malnourished, and endurance athletes (working on their muscle increase). One can use an organic vegan protein powder, a wholefood plant-based protein powder with the necessary branch chain amino acids, or whey protein. Whey protein is found to be a rich source of amino acids that can help beta cells with their insulin secretion by directly stimulating them, according to a study published in the World Journal of Diabetes in 2015. However, the optimal timing and dosage are still not clearly defined, thus more studies are required.


Even though just a few studies have supported its effectiveness since the 1980s, the research then showed that vanadium could lower blood sugar levels. It is a trace mineral, just like chromium, and it was found that vanadium can replace insulin (along with its heavier cousins – tungsten and molybdenum).

Bitter Melon

Botanicals like bitter melon are found to have certain glucose-lowering properties. Bitter melon is a vegetable, but it is also found in supplement form. Results of a four-week-clinical trial were published in the 2011 January edition of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which indicate that blood glucose levels can be significantly reduced by a 2,000 mg daily dose of bitter melon among people with type 2 diabetes. However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm its role in diabetes management and treatment.

Whichever supplement you wish to use, you should not try before speaking to your doctor. Your doctor is the one that should ensure you that the supplement you are consuming is safe and won’t interfere with your diabetes medications and therapy.

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