Type 2 Diabetes: Supplements Overview
- There is limited scientific evidence on the effectiveness of dietary
supplements as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for type 2
diabetes. The evidence that is available is not sufficiently strong to prove
that any of the six supplements discussed in this report have benefits for type
2 diabetes or its complications. A possible exception may be the use of omega-3
fatty acids to lower triglyceridea
- It is very important not to replace conventional medical therapy for
diabetes with an unproven CAM therapy.
- To ensure a safe and coordinated course of care, people should inform their
health care providers about any CAM therapy that they are currently using or
- The six dietary supplements reviewed in this report appear to be generally
safe at low-to-moderate doses. However, each can interact with various
prescription medications, affecting the action of the medications. People with
type 2 diabetes need to know about these risks and discuss them with their
health care provider. Prescribed medicines may need to be adjusted if a person
is also using a CAM therapy.
aTerms that are underlined are defined in the dictionary at the
end of this report.
1. What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body cannot properly convert
food into energy. Most food that a person eats is eventually broken down into
blood glucose (also called blood sugar), which cells need for energy and
growth. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose enter cells. In people with
diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin, or it does not respond to
insulin properly. This causes glucose to build up in the blood instead of
moving into the cells. The most common type of diabetes is type 2 diabetes
(formerly called adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes). People
can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even in childhood.
The symptoms of diabetes include fatigue, nausea, a need to urinate
frequently, excessive thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections,
and sores that do not heal. However, some people with diabetes do not have any
symptoms. Over time, the high blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can lead
to complications in the eyes, blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, feet, teeth,
skin, and, especially, the heart. Such complications can be prevented or
delayed by keeping blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and
triglycerides in a normal or close-to-normal range.
Some people develop a condition called insulin resistance before they
develop type 2 diabetes. When insulin resistance is present, the body does not
respond properly to the insulin it has released to lower blood glucose. So, the
pancreas releases more insulin to try to keep up with the excess glucose. If
the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, over time this leads to type 2
diabetes. Obesity, aging, and lack of exercise can all play a role in
developing insulin resistance and heightening the risk for diabetes.
To find out more about diabetes and related conditions, contact the National
Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.