About 1 out of 15 Americans has diabetes – 20 million of us. Worse, before you develop diabetes you get metabolic syndrome, which is a prediabetes condition that includes elevated blood-sugar levels, high blood pressure or a spare tire around your waist. One in six Americans have this, according to the American Diabetes Association.1
Being pre-diabetic means you’re certainly gunning for diabetes, but it also means you’re also cruising for a coronary. It also means you likely don’t have all the energy you could have.
Quick – why not start eating better, getting regular exercise – like taking a 20-minute walk every day – which will also help keep you at a healthier weight? These are all connected.
Between the options of going with the better diet and exercise and taking the pharmaceuticals, there are the dietary supplements and functional ingredients that can help you. Because why take Glucophage when one out of three patients taking the drug experiences nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating or diarrhea? And then there’s the muscle pain that’s all too common. And did we mention that 1 out of 15,000 patients who take diabetes drugs dies from side effects?2
Supplements to combat diabetes
So, try supplements first. How about cinnamon? Yeah, that tasty spice you put on your toast as a kid. It might just help. It might not either, but that doesn’t mean you should jump to a drug.
In a review of published studies using cinnamon for diabetes, researchers found cinnamon reduced blood-sugar levels by between 10 and 29 percent in diabetics, and by 8 percent in non-diabetics. The review also noted other studies found no effect.3 Another study found that intake of 2g of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduced Hemoglobin A1C (a marker of long-term glycemic control in those who have diabetes). The researchers concluded "Cinnamon supplementation could be considered as an additional dietary supplement option to regulate blood glucose and blood pressure levels along with conventional medication to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.4"
What else works? Studies show that omega-3s can both prevent and reverse the insulin resistance that is a hallmark of diabetes, because too much sugar over time blunts the body’s ability of insulin to properly deal with the blood sugar.5
Since the fish-oil omega-3s – EPA, DHA and ALA – are seen as the important constituents that are responsible for this effect, krill oil was also studied for any effects. It proved more effective for reducing glucose and all blood-lipid parameters, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, compared to fish oil and placebo.6
One of the more effective nutritional supplements against diabetic symptoms is chromium. There are different types of chromium available as supplements. The two best ones are chromium polynicotinate and chromium picolinate. Some studies show chromium pic is better at managing diabetes symptoms, some studies show chromium polynicotinate is safer.7
In one gold standard study – a double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial – researchers gave 29 people 1,000 micrograms per day for eight months. The chromium picolinate group had improved insulin sensitivity, especially in those who were overweight.8
In a recent review of all human clinical trials using chromium picolinate, researchers found that 13 of the 15 studies, involving a total of 1,505 patients taking the chromium, reported a significant improvement in at least one marker of glycemic control – be it reduced blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol or triglyceride levels.9
Not to be outdone, a study comparing chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate found the latter to be more effective in improve blood-sugar controls. Of note, it was a study in mice.10
And diabetics take note: You don't really have to live without sweetners. There are sweeteners now available – both in tabletop packets and in various foods and beverages – that produce no spike in blood sugar and no calories. Look for stevia or erythritol.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.
4. Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, et al. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. Oct2010;27(10):1159-67.