Type 2 Diabetes: Supplements Overview
4. What should people do if they have diabetes and are considering using any CAM therapy?
- People with diabetes need to be under the care of a physician or other
health care provider who will help them learn to manage their diabetes and will
monitor their efforts to control it. Dietitians and diabetes educators help
people learn and use the skills needed for managing diabetes on a daily basis.
In addition, many patients need to be under the care of one or more
specialists, such as an endocrinologist, an ophthalmologist, and/or a podiatrist.
- It is important to not replace scientifically proven treatments for
diabetes with CAM treatments that are unproven. The consequences of not
following one's prescribed medical regimen for diabetes can be very serious,
- People with diabetes should tell their health care provider about any
dietary supplements or medications (prescription or over-the-counter) that they
are using or considering. Prescribed medicines for diabetes and all other major
health conditions may need to be adjusted if a person is also using a CAM
therapy. Pharmacists can be another helpful source of information about dietary
- If they decide to use supplements, they should know that what they see on
the label may not accurately reflect what is in the bottle. Some herbal
supplements, for example, have been found to be contaminated; some tests of
dietary supplements have found that the contents did not match the labeled dose
on the bottle. The NCCAM Clearinghouse (see "For More Information") has
publications on this topic.
- Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are thinking of using
supplements to treat a child, should use extra caution and be sure to consult
their health care provider.
- If people with diabetes decide to use a supplement and notice any unusual
effects, they should stop and contact their health care provider.
5. What is known about the safety and effectiveness of these six dietary supplements as CAM treatments for diabetes?
Below is a brief overview of each dietary supplement and what is known from
research about its effectiveness and safety in use for diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA, also known as lipoic acid or thioctic acid) is a
chemical that is similar to a vitamin. It is an antioxidant--a substance that
prevents cell damage caused by substances called free radicals in a process called
oxidative stress. High levels of blood glucose are one cause of oxidative
stress. ALA is found in some foods, such as liver, spinach, broccoli, and
potatoes. ALA can also be made in the laboratory. ALA supplements are marketed
as tablets or capsules.c It is theorized that ALA may be beneficial
because of its antioxidant activity.
c There is some use, reported from outside the
United States, of ALA delivered intravenously (IV). These trials are not
discussed in this report.