There have been promising results gained from a number of trials on a wide range of nutritional supplements and natural health products employed by Type 2 Diabetes patients. However, many require further study to confirm optimum dosage, safety and potential undesirable interaction with conventional medical therapies.
Always consult your practitioner before taking food supplements or other remedies.
There have been numerous controlled studies on the effects of fiber intake on glycated hemoglobin and plasma glucose which have enjoyed consistently positive results.
High fiber diets (up to 42.5g per day) or high fiber food supplements (up to 15g per day) are credited with reducing absolute values of glycated hemoglobin by an average of 0.55%, and fasting plasma glucose by a mean of 9.97mg. This has led practitioners to recommend that patients with Type 2 Diabetes follow a high fiber routine.
Pycnogenol – French Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Since many patients reported no need for insulin after taking Pycnogenol supplements, a number of double-blind studies have been undertaken to test its efficiency. Pycnogenol was credited with improving poor circulation and helping to slow the deterioration of sight as well as improving diabetes control.
At Guang An Men Hospital in China 30 patients with Type 2 Diabetes aged between 28 and 64 years with a BMI of 22-34 kg/m2 who were not suffering from hypertension were enrolled in a study where they received 50, 100, 200 or 300mg of Pycnogenol every three weeks for 12 weeks. No changes were recorded in vital signs but fasting blood glucose was lowered significantly up to a dose of 200mg. Increasing the dose from 200mg to 300mg did not further decrease glucose. Insulin levels were not changed at any dose level. Four patients reported dizziness, two had gastric problems, two headaches and one a mouth ulcer, but all side effects were minor and not long lasting.
On another double-blind, placebo controlled, trial 48 patients with Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension were enrolled on a study where one group received 125mg daily of Pycnogenol for 12 weeks. At the conclusion of this study, those who had received the Pycnogenol supplement had improved diabetes control, lowered cardiovascular disease risk factors and reduced antihypertensive medicine use compared to the control groups.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acid
A recent Spanish study at the University of Valladolid researched whether Type 2 Diabetics with recent weight loss could be helped by daily doses of a high monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) diabetes-specific supplement. At the conclusion of a 10 week trial, HbA1c and nutritional statuses of the patients had improved significantly, with those who had three supplements per day enjoying more improvements than those who consumed two.
Grape Extract Resveratrol
A year-long Spanish placebo-controlled study of this supplement in hypertensive males with Type 2 Diabetes failed to record changes in blood pressure, glucose, HbA1c, lipids or body weight. There was a significant reduction in ALP and IL-6 levels and the expression of some pro-inflammatory cytokines was reduced. Scientists concluded that long term use of Grape Extract with Resveratol down regulates the expression of some pro-inflammatory cytokines and may be beneficial to some patients.
A German study at the University of Kiel investigated the antidiabetic, antiadipogenic and anti-inflammatory effects of Green Tea in obese mice. Some anti-inflammatory effects were recorded and there was a temporary improvement in glycemia.
Zinc and Magnesium
Numerous studies have demonstrated a significant decrease in plasma zinc and magnesium in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Sufferers are three times more likely to have low magnesium levels than the rest of the population and this can lead to diabetic foot ulcers. Taking magnesium supplements has been shown to improve insulin-stimulated uptake of glucose into cells.
Zinc metabolism is frequently impaired in chronic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A review conducted by the University of Sydney on placebo controlled trials to find the effect of zinc supplements on fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, serum insulin and serum zinc concentrations, discovered slight reductions of glucose concentrations for patients taking zinc supplements which led them to conclude that they could help manage symptoms of hypoglycemic patients and those with chronic metabolic diseases.
Vitamins C and E
Vitamin C helps glucose tolerance and can reduce harmful glycosylation of proteins and hemoglobin. Taking vitamin C supplements will cause fluctuations in blood and urine test results so always tell your doctor before beginning a course.
Vitamin E can lower fasting glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels and works best taken in conjunction with Vitamin C or Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Alpha Lipoic Acid, Omega 3
ALA stimulates glucose uptake and helps vitamins C and E work more effectively. Studies have shown ALA and Omega 3 protect patients from neuropathy and are especially effective at reducing burning pains, pins and needles and numbness. Both ALA and Omega 3 improve insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism.
There is ongoing research into the effectiveness of probiotics – especially lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Dietary control is important in Type 2 Diabetes and the targeting of gut microbiota is a vital part of this.
Pomegranate products – peels, flowers and seeds – are some of the world’s greatest antioxidants and in Type 2 Diabetes eating pomegranate has been demonstrated to reduce oxidative stress. Fasting blood glucose levels were shown to be significantly reduced by taking punicic acid, methanolic seed extract and pomegranate peel extract. More studies are planned on the antioxidant polyphenols in pomegranate fruit.
In recent trials sardine protein diets were shown to diminish plasma insulin and insulin resistance suggesting that this could be valuable for patients suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.
Bilberries and Blueberries
Both these fruits contain large amounts of anthocyanins which can be consumed in fresh, dried and juiced forms. This particular antioxidant improves vision and can be used to treat retinopathy which is often present with Type 2 Diabetes. In a recent study of bilberry extract (BBE) it was demonstrated to reduce blood glucose concentration and enhanced insulin sensitivity. For this reason bilberry extract was deemed to be important in both the prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.