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  Oct 11, 2018

Supplements for Diabetes

In the search for improved methods of managing diabetes, various supplements are being investigated. These studies aim to identify the possible roles of minerals and vitamins in the regulation of blood glucose levels, and whether this regulation can be boosted through nutritional supplementation.

Supplements for diabetesImage Credit: ronstik / Shutterstock

What are supplements?

Food supplements (dietary/nutritional supplements) are vitamins and nutrients that are used to support a healthy diet. They are not used to replace foods, but instead boost nutrient intake and increase nutritional value.

There are many types of supplements, including: amino acids, fatty acids, fibres, enzymes involved in digestion, vitamins and minerals, commonly in the form of tablets, capsules and liquids.

Supplements and diabetes

Various supplements that may aid in the management of diabetes have been investigated so far.. However, current data is inconclusive and it is still unclear as to if they have real benefits. The most successful studies so far have investigated the potential benefits of chromium and magnesium.

Chromium

Chromium is vital for glucose use and overall blood sugar regulation. It was suggested that boosting chromium levels could lead to decreased glucose levels and increased regulation, aiding the management of diabetes.

In 2014, a review of 25 studies, including 1,600 diabetic participants, showed that chromium supplements could lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels. However, long term studies are still required before this is used as a common treatment for diabetes, as there are many side effects to chromium intake such as kidney damage, skin reactions and muscular issues.

Magnesium

Magnesium is very important in the metabolism of glucose, and low levels are often observed within diabetic individuals. Doctors, therefore, thought that boosting magnesium levels could lead to increased glucose metabolism, resulting in lower blood sugar levels.
 

Several studies have shown that there is a small, yet significant, benefit of taking this supplement. However, there is currently not enough evidence available to give a conclusive answer, so magnesium is not recommended as a treatment for diabetes. Moreover, large doses of magnesium are deadly, and smaller doses can have painful side-effects such as diarrhoea and cramps.

Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation

There have also been studies into alpha-lipoic acid supplementation for treatment of diabetic complications, such as neuropathy. A recent study of 205 individuals with diabetic neuropathy showed that boosting alpha-lipoic acid levels has several beneficial effects.

However, there is currently limited evidence available and studies are therefore inconclusive. Alpha-lipoic acid ha