Nutrition and Supplements for Diabetics

A diabetic is someone who should watch what they eat and drink. They should also ensure that they get enough nutrients. There are those who back up what they get from food by taking supplements. Not all supplements are meant for a diabetic patient. A type 2 diabetes patient takes chromium and magnesium.

Chromium. Chromium, a metal and an essential trace mineral, is thought to naturally help reduce blood sugar levels. It is naturally occurring in foods such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, and whole-wheat and rye breads. As a supplement, it is sold as chromium picolinate, chromium chloride, and chromium nicotinate.

Magnesium. Magnesium is essential for healthy bones, muscle function, normal blood pressure, and proper heart rhythm. People with diabetes tend to be low in magnesium, which is linked to lowered insulin production and more insulin insensitivity. “If a blood test shows that magnesium levels are low, a supplement might be helpful,” says Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Merrick, N.Y. Note, however, that taking too much magnesium causes diarrhea. Good food sources of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, halibut, tuna, spinach, and oat bran.

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Vitamins are your best friend. So what type of vitamin supplements should you not miss? Well Vitamin C, D and B complex.

B-Complex Vitamins

Vitamins B6 and B12 specifically support nerve health, which is critical for addressing conditions such as diabetic neuropathy. Biotin is another B-complex vitamin that is necessary for both metabolism and growth. Biotin is also involved in the manufacture and utilization of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Take 75 mg of B6, 150 mcg of B12, and 300 mcg of biotin daily.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C lowers levels of sorbitol, the sugar that can collect in and damage cells in the eyes, kidneys and nerves. I recommend at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D turns on genes that boost production of antimicrobial peptides called cathelicidins, which destroy viruses, bacteria and other germs. Because people with diabetes are more prone to infections due to diabetic ulcers and periodontal disease, making sure your body has optimal levels of this fat-soluble vitamin is important. I recommend at least 2,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D (as cholecalciferol or D3) daily.

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Diabetic patients should also be very careful when it comes to taking supplements. This is especially true since there are supplements that claim to reduce blood sugar. There is not enough information out there to assure patients of their safety.

When it comes to tablets, capsules, powders, and teas that claim to control blood sugar, RDs and other healthcare practitioners agree that the research doesn’t support the miracle cure reputation many supplements have developed. And with little research available on side effects and potential interactions with oral diabetes medications, insulin, and other drugs diabetes patients often use (such as cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering agents), not enough is known about long-term safety.


“A low dose of chromium won’t cause harm, but a high dose could,” Brown-Riggs says. “A multivitamin plus whole grains, broccoli, and other vegetables should give you all you need. At high levels, chromium can harm the kidneys and liver and cause mood disturbances. It also can interfere with medications, including antacids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, beta blockers, corticosteroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”

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