There is no doubt that diet plays a key role in the management and treatment of diabetes. In addition to taking medications, it is important to follow a nutritious diet to keep your blood glucose level in control. If your diet lacks adequate nutrition, adding dietary supplements might be recommended. Here is a quick guide on the use of vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplements for diabetes.
Vitamin supplements for diabetes
Vitamins play a key role in glucose metabolism and the lack of these nutrients could make supplementation necessary to manage and prevent diabetes-related complications.
Due to abnormal glucose metabolism in diabetics, there is an excess production of free radicals. This, in turn, reduces the antioxidants in the blood, which causes a deficiency of vitamins such as A, C, and E, which are potent antioxidants. This may require you to load up on the vitamins to meet your body’s requirements.
Certain medicines used to treat diabetes can lower the absorption of Vitamin B9 (folic acid) and Vitamin B12. So, if you are taking diabetes medication for a long time, you may also need to take supplements.
-Vitamin A: The active form of Vitamin A is retinol, which is a potent antioxidant that not only helps deal with stress but also improves the functioning of the pancreatic cells. This is important as pancreatic cells produce insulin.
-Vitamin C: According to a 2007 study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, consumption of 1000 mg of Vitamin C supplements on a daily basis was found to lower levels of glucose and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. Supplements can also help prevent Vitamin C deficiency and thereby reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.
-Vitamin E: The use of Vitamin E supplements in people with diabetes mellitus for around 24 months was found to prevent the development of diabetic complications. This includes complications like diabetic retinopathy, foot ulcers, and cardiovascular problems. Moreover, vitamin E supplementation slows down the progression of complications in people with uncontrolled diabetes.
-Vitamin B1: Many people with Type 1 and type 2 diabetes suffer from Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. Studies have reported that the use of thiamine supplements for at least a month decreases blood glucose level in diabetics, also lowering the risk of diabetic nephropathy.
-Vitamin B9: Studies have shown that folate supplementation can help improve glycemic control by reducing HbA1c levels. Additionally, it improves serum insulin and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients. When used in combination with other vitamins like Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12, it can also improve symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.
-Vitamin B12: Supplementation of vitamin B12, along with folate (Vitamin B9) and pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), improves symptoms of diabetic retinopathy such as retinal edema (fluid accumulation in the eyes) and increased sensitivity to light. When supplemented along with lipoic acid, vitamin B12 also improves nerve function, protecting against diabetic neuropathy.
Overall, numerous research studies have reported that vitamin supplementation not only improves glycemic control in diabetics but also prevents diabetes-related complications.
Mineral supplements for diabetes
Minerals play an equally important role in the management and treatment of diabetes. This is because lack of minerals can impair glucose metabolism, raising the risk of health complications. In fact, diabetes patients often suffer from low levels of magnesium and zinc.
-Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for the breakdown of glucose by various enzymes. Moreover, low levels of this mineral can impair the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. For this reason, the use of magnesium supplements can improve glycemic control, helping in the management of diabetes.
-Zinc: Zinc plays a significant role in the synthesis, storage, and secretion of insulin. Low levels of zinc not only increase the risk of diabetes and associated complications, but it also affects other cellular functions. Hence, to regulate glucose levels and prevent diabetic complications, zinc supplementation may be recommended.
-Chromium: Research studies have shed light on the need for chromium, which is a trace mineral. This mineral is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates. Although low doses of this mineral are regarded as safe, there is not enough evidence on the appropriate dosage. Do talk to your doctor before you take any mineral supplements for diabetes.
Antioxidants for diabetes
Hyperglycemia or high blood glucose levels can lead to auto-oxidation of glucose to form free radicals. An excess of free radicals in the body can lead to vascular damage and dysfunction of the blood vessels and neurons, thus increasing the risk of diabetic neuropathy.
Antioxidants help to scavenge free radicals, thereby lowering the risk of complications. Intake of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid (ALA), either through natural food sources or through supplements, can help to prevent the risk of diabetic pathologies. This makes them helpful in the management of diabetes.
ALA is a potent antioxidant that lowers fasting blood glucose levels, reduces oxidative stress, and decreases insulin resistance. However, this supplement should be used with caution as it can cause a drastic drop in your blood glucose levels.
Before you start using any supplements, keep in mind that certain supplements might interfere with your diabetes medications. This is why it is important to first consult your doctor for the appropriate dosage and usage information, depending on your specific requirements.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)