Americans spend billions of dollars on dietary supplements but the truth is that not only can we get most of what we need from food, but food sources are often more effective. Still, there are a few nutrients where supplementation may be useful of even necessary. See what Toby has to say.
Welcome back to DiabetesEveryDay. I’m registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist, Toby Smithson. If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to my channel and log onto my DiabetesEveryDay.com website to sign up for my newsletter.
I know this is always a hot topic. A topic that is on people’s mind….. should I or shouldn’t I take this or that vitamin supplement? I have a couple videos on some specific supplements that people with diabetes need to consider. In today’s video, I’m going to try to give a rundown of supplements in general of what you should look for and present the science- based findings of which supplements are appropriate for people with diabetes and the reason why.
To get started, I have three key points about supplements.
Point number one. Food first. As a dietitian, I always recommend food first. If you have found that you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral the science still recommends to first look to the food sources to get the best absorption of the nutrient and remember these foods will also provide other important nutrients like possibly fiber or protective compounds called antioxidants which may not be provided in the supplement. Did you know that the fat- soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can’t be absorbed without the presence of fat like nuts, olive oil or avocado? This is a great example of why getting nutrition from food first can be beneficial beyond the supplement you may be taking.
Point number two: Be careful on the brand of the supplement you are purchasing. My go to brand is Nature Made. Their vitamins are made in the US and follow the FDA standards in a certified facility. And they have the USP label on their supplements. USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia verification. Nature Made products are also easily found at your local grocery stores or pharmacies.
And point three: Let your doctor know if you are taking any over the counter supplements and follow the dosage as recommended by your doctor. Supplements are not to be used in place of diabetes medications.
Now let’s talk about some of the supplements directly related to diabetes… There have been studies done looking at the prevention or treatment of type 2 diabetes using alpha lipoic acid, chromium, herbal supplements, magnesium, omega 3s, selenium, vitamins C and D.
The results of the studies have not shown an absolute benefit. For instance, studies have found that chromium might help with blood sugar management, and alpha-lipoic acid (which is also found in spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes) might be helpful for diabetic neuropathy (nerve problems).
But, for the majority of supplements, there isn’t enough positive outcome science -based evidence to make a recommendation to take this or that supplement.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that can help our body use glucose efficiently. The research findings showed improvement for people with type 2 diabetes who had poor management of their blood sugar levels. As a safety note: these supplements can cause stomach bloating, kidney damage, muscular problems and even skin reactions, so you need to be cautious about long term use of a chromium supplement.
The next supplement on the list is herbals and unfortunately there is not reliable evidence that herbal supplements can manage diabetes or prevent complications. More solid science- based studies are needed.
Magnesium is another supplement. Make sure to check out my video on Magnesium. Just an added note here. Consuming large doses of this supplement can cause stomach cramping and diarrhea. Keep this in mind if you choose to take any supplement. Too much can backfire on your health.
You may be familiar from recommendations to take Omega 3s for heart health. There has been a review of the research and there is conflicting evidence showing some improvement in heart and diabetes health and then other research showing that omega 3s increased risk of diabetes. More research is needed.
The research on Selenium looked at prevention of diabetes and the review of 4 studies with more than 200,000 participants revealed that use of a selenium supplement did not reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin C and D are also on the supplement list and there is a study that found vitamin c supplement helped blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D has been studied because it was found that people who have low levels of vitamin D are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and low levels are on the theory list for development of type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D is important to be combined with calcium for bone health but the studies on diabetes prevention or management don’t show to be helpful.
And don’t forget to check out my video on vitamin B12. This is a nutrient of concern for people with diabetes taking metformin, older adults and those who follow a vegetarian eating plan.
Remember to look carefully at any potential side effects. Some supplements can affect our kidneys, and we don’t want to increase our risk for kidney disease. Consuming too much of a supplement can also cause stomach issues. And to repeat the most important points – get your nutrients from food first and talk to you doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine. Simple lab tests can determine if you actually need supplementation. Until next time, cheers to your health.