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Type 2 Diabetes: Supplements Overview

5. What is known about the safety and effectiveness of these six dietary supplements as CAM treatments for diabetes? continued...

Side effects and other risks
Garlic is safe for most adults. However, garlic appears to interact with various types of drugs. For example, when combined with certain medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS (NNRTIs and saquinavir), garlic may decrease their effectiveness. Garlic may also interact with and affect the action of birth control pills, cyclosporine, medications that are broken down by the liver, and blood thinners (including warfarin). Other possible side effects of garlic include an odor on the breath or skin, an allergic reaction, stomach disorders, diarrhea, and skin rash.

Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some whole grains. Various supplemental forms of magnesium are marketed as tablets, capsules, or liquids.

Magnesium has many important functions in the body, including in the heart, nerves, muscles, bones, handling glucose, and making proteins. Low levels of magnesium are commonly seen in people with diabetes. Scientists have studied the relationship between magnesium and diabetes for a long time, but it is not yet fully understood.

Summary of the research findings
There have been a handful of studies on magnesium and type 2 diabetes, many of them very small in size and/or short in length and primarily looking at blood glucose control. The results have been mixed, with most finding that magnesium did not affect blood glucose control. Some studies have suggested that low magnesium levels may make glucose control worse in type 2 diabetes (interrupting insulin secretion in the pancreas and increasing insulin resistance) and contribute to diabetes complications. There is evidence that magnesium supplementation may be helpful for insulin resistance. Additional controlled studies are needed to establish firmly whether magnesium supplements have any role or benefit as a CAM therapy for type 2 diabetes.

Side effects and other risks
Magnesium supplements appear to be safe for most adults at low doses. High doses can be unsafe and cause such problems as nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, extremely low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and confusion. Magnesium can interact with and affect the action of certain drugs, including some antibiotics, drugs to prevent osteoporosis, certain high blood pressure medicines (calcium channel blockers), muscle relaxants, and diuretics ("water pills").

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