People with diabetes have tried numerous herbs and supplements
to improve their diabetes. These alternative treatments supposedly help control
blood sugar levels, reduce resistance to insulin, and prevent diabetes-related
Some supplements have shown promise in animal studies.
However, there is currently only limited evidence that they have the above
mentioned benefits in humans.
Supplements should not be used to replace standard diabetes
treatment. Doing so can put your health at risk.
It is important to talk to your doctor before using any
supplements. Some of these products can interfere with other treatments. Just
because a product is natural does not mean it is safe to use.
A number of supplements have shown promise as diabetes
Research suggests that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar.
A 2011 study found that it has the potential to significantly decrease fasting
blood glucose. However, other studies have found no evidence of this effect.
Chromium is an essential trace element. It is used in the
metabolism of carbohydrates.
However, research on the use of chromium for diabetes
treatment is mixed. Low doses are safe for most people, but there is a risk
that chromium could make blood sugar go too low. High doses also have the
potential to cause kidney damage.
Vitamin B1 is also
known as thiamine. Many people with diabetes are thiamine
deficient. This may contribute to some diabetes complications. Low thiamine has
been linked to heart disease and blood vessel damage.
Thiamine is water-soluble. It has difficulty getting into
the cells where it’s needed. However, benfotiamine, a supplemental form of
thiamine, is lipid-soluble. It more easily penetrates
cell membranes. Some research suggests that benfotiamine can prevent diabetic
complications. However, other studies have not shown any positive effects.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant. Some
studies suggest it may:
- reduce oxidative stress
- lower fasting blood sugar levels
- decrease insulin resistance
However, more research is needed. Furthermore, ALA needs to
be taken with caution, as it has the potential to lower blood sugar levels to
Bitter melon is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine. It
has shown some promise as a diabetes treatment in animal and lab studies.
There is limited human data on bitter melon. A recent trial
compared its effects to those of metformin. In the trial, bitter melon had a
modest effect on blood sugar. However, it was not as effective as metformin.
Metformin is the standard drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Green tea contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants.
The main antioxidant in green tea is known as epigallocatechin
gallate (EGCG). Laboratory studies have suggested that EGCG may have numerous
health benefits including:
- lower cardiovascular disease risk
- improved glucose control
- better insulin activity
Studies on diabetic patients have not shown health benefits.
However, green tea is generally considered safe.
Resveratrol is a chemical found in wine and grapes. In
animal models, it helps prevent high blood sugar. Animal studies have also
shown that it can reduce oxidative stress. However, human data is limited. It
is too soon to know if supplementation helps with diabetes.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient. It helps regulate blood
pressure. It also regulates insulin sensitivity. Supplemental magnesium may
improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics.
A high magnesium diet may also reduce the risk of diabetes.
Researchers have found a link between higher magnesium intake, lower rates of
insulin resistance, and diabetes.