Supplements are often explored as an option to support blood sugar management in type 2 diabetes as an alternative or complement to conventional treatment options. It is important to always talk to your doctor before beginning a new supplement.
Here are some examples of supplements commonly taken and studied to help with diabetes management, and three supplements not recommended:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Taken in capsule or liquid form, ACV has been the subject of much interest in recent years. A recent research review found that ACV intake favorably affected fasting blood sugar and average blood sugar. It is important to note – when taken in liquid form, ACV could damage tooth enamel or the esophagus, so using capsules or adding it to food is a recommended intake method.
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Although more research is needed to understand dosing and effectiveness, magnesium is an important mineral in the blood sugar management as well as heart health, which is the leading cause of death in people with type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor to evaluate your blood levels for magnesium prior to beginning any supplementation, especially if you have any signs of kidney damage.
3. Green Tea Extract
Green tea’s antioxidant content has been studied as a possible aid in glucose control as well as diabetes prevention. Research on people with type 2 diabetes has indicated that green tea could possibly reduce inflammation, which causes other complications, but a recent review of research found no significant effects of green tea intake on blood sugar control.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is extremely prevalent worldwide and can lead to muscle and bone weakness. Although its relationship to diabetes is uncertain, vitamin D deficiency is often found in people with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Getting a test to evaluate your vitamin D status is recommended prior to supplementation, especially if you are vegan or rarely spend time in the sun.
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5. Vitamin B12
Like vitamin D, vitamin B12 status should be evaluated prior to supplementation. A common medication used for type 2 diabetes, Metformin, often causes low levels of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for energy levels, making cells and nerve health.
6. Psyllium Fiber
Fiber is an important nutrient for slowing down blood pressure spikes after meals. Psyllium is typically found in powdered form and can be easily mixed in a glass of water. It is important to increase overall water intake if you add fiber to your diet to support its function. If you are already eating a high-fiber diet, supplementation may not be necessary. Additionally, pay attention to your stomach and bowels after gradually adding fiber to your diet and reduce or stop supplementation if you have any uncomfortable side effects.
Studies are varied on cinnamon supplementation, but some have shown blood sugar-lowering potential. It is available in capsule form or ½ teaspoon can be added to your foods as a spice. This spice does more than lower fasting blood sugar and decrease blood sugar spikes following meals. It may also lower the risk of common diabetes complications.
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8. Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA)
ALA is an antioxidant supplement that may help with nerve pain (neuropathy) caused by high blood sugar. Some researchers have suggested that ALA may also play a role in diabetes prevention or treatment. ALA can interact with medications, so clearance from your doctor is important. This nutrient is also present in several vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and peas.
SUPPLEMENT TO AVOID: FENUGREEK
Side effects from fenugreek outweigh any small benefits it may contribute to blood sugar management. Potential benefits of fenugreek are thought to possibly be due to the fiber content which could be more efficiently consumed in other forms. Studies completed on this supplement have been small. Fenugreek can cause some stomach upset and interacts with several medications.
SUPPLEMENT TO AVOID: BITTER MELON
Current evidence for taking this supplement is limited, and it can even cause allergic reactions or gastrointestinal symptoms. Bitter melon can also interact with several common medications.
SUPPLEMENT TO AVOID: CHROMIUM
Chromium is a mineral examined due to its role in blood sugar management. However, very little support for supplementation exists. Most people get plenty of chromium through diet, and an excess can cause some serious side effects, including kidney and liver failure.
*This information is not intended as a substitute for consultation, evaluation, or treatment by a medical professional and/or registered dietitian or nutritionist. It is solely for information purposes and does not replace advice or recommendations from any medical professional.