Diabetes and Dietary Supplements

Can dietary supplements really help control diabetes? If you are like many people with diabetes, you might wonder whether the ads you have seen or heard are true. Take a few minutes to learn how diabetes and dietary supplements can be a good mix -- or a set-up for trouble.

What Are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional components such as herbs. You take them by mouth. Dietary supplements can sometimes provide extra nutritional benefit to people with special health problems, including diabetes. However, most people with diabetes will still have to take traditional prescription medicine to keep their blood sugar levels in control.

How Dietary Supplements May Help Control Diabetes

So far, there is not enough research to support specific recommendations for diabetes and dietary supplements. Ongoing studies point to two minerals that may be linked to blood sugar control.

  • Chromium may help lower blood glucose levels in some people with diabetes. But more research needs to be done before this can be recommended.
  • Magnesium levels are often low in people who have problems with insulin secretion and in people with complications of diabetes. Whether magnesium dietary supplements can help relieve or reduce these problems is still unknown.

How Dietary Supplements Can Hinder Diabetes Control

If you are not cautious, diabetes and dietary supplements can be a dangerous mix. Here's why:

  • Some supplements have been found to be contaminated with substances other than those stated on the label.
  • Some supplements may interact with medication or other supplements, such as herbs, increasing or decreasing their effects. St. John’s wort, for example, is known to have many drug interactions and should be avoided with other medications.

Deciding Whether to Use Dietary Supplements for Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association states that there is no evidence that vitamin or mineral supplements will benefit people with diabetes who do not have an actual deficiency.

Talk with your doctor. That's the first step in deciding whether or not to mix diabetes and dietary supplements. He or she can discuss the possible benefits and risks of dietary supplements.

Your doctor or pharmacist can also check that any supplements you take will not interact dangerously with your medications.

Be sure to list any dietary supplements you take whenever you tell your doctor or any other health care professional about your medications.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 21, 2017

Sources

SOURCES: 
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "What's in the Bottle? An Introduction to Dietary Supplements." WebMD Medical Reference: "Diabetes: Alternative Medicine." UpToDate. National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium." University of Maryland Medical Center: "Chromium."

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