In addition to the obvious ways of controlling your diet and getting more active physically, several supplements are known to be beneficial in controlling blood sugar.
One gram (slightly less than a half teaspoon) of cinnamon per day was given to 60 volunteers with type 2 diabetes. In just 40 days, this small amount of cinnamon reduced fasting glucose levels anywhere from 18 to 29 percent, triglyceride levels 23 to 30 percent, LDL cholesterol levels 7 to 27 percent, and total cholesterol 12 to 26 percent. No advantages or greater improvements were found when larger doses were given. Also, when the participants stopped taking the cinnamon, their blood sugar levels and other readings began to return to former levels. (J Agri Food Chem 04;52:65–70) (Diabetes Care 03;26:3215–3218)
A series of studies have shown that vitamin D levels are connected to insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. In a recent study, researchers at the University of California found that low vitamin D levels resulted in insulin resistance and improper function of the pancreatic cells that help produce insulin.
If you, or your family, have a history of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), then adequate amounts of vitamin D are even more important. At least 30 minutes a day in the sunshine (without a sunscreen) would be helpful, and a daily multivitamin that includes a minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D would be highly recommended.
And an interesting side note, some researchers now think Australia’s “slip, slop, slap” campaign [slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat] to prevent skin cancer may have led to their current epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that the lower your vitamin D level, the higher your blood glucose. (Clin Endocrinol 05;62:738–741)
This element may very well be the single most important supplement for the prevention of diabetes. Many authorities now feel that dietary chromium deficiencies may be directly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, the type that accounts for approximately 95 percent of all diabetes cases.
Chromium is required by your body to metabolize sugar (and fat). Without it, tissue cells become insensitive to insulin. With it, insulin becomes up to 100 times more efficient at getting glucose converted into energy. Chromium will help, though, only if your pancreas still secretes insulin. Chromium also doesn’t seem to improve the efficiency of insulin given therapeutically.
With today’s highly processed foods and high sugar diets, it’s difficult to get adequate chromium through your diet alone. In addition, white sugar depletes the mineral. (Around 100 micrograms [mcg] of chromium are required to metabolize every 100 grams of white sugar.) Physical trauma and strenuous exercise also deplete chromium.
Most nutritional authorities now feel that we should be getting at least 200 mcg daily, and even this may not be enough for those with diabetes. One study out of South Africa showed that when diabetics were given a 600 mcg chromium supplement for four months, their fasting glucose levels fell by more than half! Almost half of those were able to significantly decrease their daily medication requirements.
Chromium is avilable as part of a variety of compounds, but I recommend the form known as chromium polynicotinate.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Studies have shown that 200 mg daily of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can help reduce the kidney and nerve damage often seen in diabetes. One study found that 600 mg taken twice daily can significantly reduce the need for insulin. After a month of treatment, the ALA also reduced the fasting levels of lactate and pyruvate, and increased insulin sensitivity and glucose effectiveness. (Diabetes Care 99;22:280–287)
For hundreds of years, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine in India have recommended using the leaves of the plant Gymnema sylvestre to treat adult-onset diabetes. Through the use of this herb alone, at a dosage of 400 mg daily, many individuals have been able to discontinue their use of oral diabetic medications. Research also indicates that extracts of this tropical plant decreased fasting blood sugar levels, normalized blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), lowered insulin requirements. and enhanced production of insulin by pancreatic cells. It appears that many of these feats resulted from the repair and/or regeneration of the actual insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
In some studies, results were positive not only for adult onset diabetes but for juvenile diabetes as well.