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Diabetes Health Center

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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...

Additional studies are needed to determine whether omega-3 supplements are safe and beneficial for heart problems in people with type 2 diabetes. Studies that look specifically at heart disease outcomes in this population are needed.

Side effects and possible risks
Omega-3s appear to be safe for most adults at low-to-moderate doses. There have been some safety questions raised about fish oil supplements, because certain species of fish can be contaminated with substances from the environment, like mercury, pesticides, or PCBs. Fish oil is on the list of food substances that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers to be "generally recognized as safe." How well a product is prepared is another factor for consumers to consider. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take fish oil supplements. Fish oil in high doses can possibly interact with, and affect the action of, certain medications, including blood-thinning drugs and drugs for high blood pressure. Potential side effects of fish oil include a fishy aftertaste, belching, stomach disturbances, and nausea.

6. What research is being done on CAM therapies for diabetes?

Recent NCCAM-supported research projects are studying the effects of:

  • Chromium on high blood glucose levels
  • Yoga on glucose control in people at risk for diabetes
  • Ginkgo biloba extract on diabetes medicines

Also, researchers in the Diabetes Unit of NCCAM's Division of Intramural Research are studying many aspects of diabetes, including what happens when the body does not properly react to insulin. Recent clinical trials, for example, have been studying whether vitamin C supplements are beneficial in diabetes, the safety of glucosamine with respect to insulin resistance, and whether dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity. Diabetes Unit staff note that a category of functional foods containing polyphenols (also available as extracts) may be of benefit for further study in diabetes, including green tea (epigallocatechin gallate), dark chocolate (epicatechin), and red wine (resveratrol).


Basic science study: A laboratory study done at the molecular level of biology and/or chemistry, to obtain necessary knowledge and background for later research such as animal studies and clinical trials.

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