Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diabetics on Glucophage, Listen Up


WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Merle Diamond, MD

Sept. 15, 2000 -- Popping a calcium tablet might be an effective way for people with type 2 diabetes who take Glucophage to ensure that their vitamin B-12 levels stay where they should. While the common antidiabetes drug lowers blood sugar levels and makes insulin work better, the drawback is that it may also cause the important vitamin B-12 to work less effectively.

Nutrition expert Naomi K. Fukagawa, MD, PhD, tells WebMD, "Vitamin B-12 is important to the body in order to [break down] carbohydrates and fats, as well as amino acids. It also plays a key role in nervous system function and blood cell development. " Fukagawa is associate professor of medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington.

The study holds a bad news-good news message. "Our study suggests strongly that individuals on a reduced calcium intake will develop a B-12 deficiency if prescribed Glucophage for type 2 diabetes," lead author William A. Bauman, MD, tells WebMD. But the report appears to offer a simple solution: Take a calcium tablet. The study findings were published in the September issue of the journal Diabetes Care. Bauman is professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

A total of 21 patients of similar age and ethnic backgrounds were included in the study at the diabetes clinic of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York. Fourteen of the subjects were switched from their usual antidiabetes medication and given Glucophage.

Initially, vitamin B-12 levels were not significantly different between the two groups. But after three months, vitamin B-12 levels dropped in the group taking Glucophage. But when this group was given Tums tablets daily for one month, the decline in B-12 levels reversed.

According to Ralph Green, MD, who was not involved in the study, "The occurrence of B-12 deficiency is particularly important because preventable nerve damage caused by [this] deficiency may be mistaken for the [problems] that often occurs in diabetes." Green is professor and chair of the department of medical pathology at the School of Medicine, University of California-Davis, in Sacramento.

Bauman says patients with type 2 diabetes treated with Glucophage -- especially those who do not consume dairy products on a daily basis or do not take calcium supplements -- should increase their intake of calcium and should be closely monitored for vitamin B-12 deficiency. Taking a calcium tablet daily "is simple and important to do," he says.

Other causes of vitamin B-12 deficiency include special diets (for example a strict vegetarian diet excluding all meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs), chronic alcoholism, and Crohn's disease.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article