Dietary supplements are not food, and not prescribed medicine, but “supplemental“ to your food and medicine. If you are on medicines, have a health condition, or just want to potentially improve your health, you may be currently using botanical, vitamins, minerals, and herbs.
Dietary supplements are chosen for their positive benefits, but they may also have side effects and/or interact with medicines you are taking. Your doctor and healthcare providers need to know about the entire array of over–the- counter products you take to be aware of any problems that might occur.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions. These products are not approved on the basis of safety or effectiveness. The burden of safety is on the manufacturer. Contamination or lower amounts of the effective ingredients could occur, without the FDA oversight. There is a voluntary auditing agency, the U.S. Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplement Verification Program (USP), which verifies the quality, purity and potency of supplements. Products with the USP symbol have passed this test.
Research on the effectiveness of all supplements is an on-going process. Organizations such as the American Diabetes Association monitor the research carefully before making recommendations. If the proof of value is weak, or there is potential harm, recommendations are withheld. Studies need to be long-term, at multiple sites, placebo-controlled, and reproduced by other scientists to be considered evidence-based. However, the products’ marketing campaign may be making claims that are not yet tested for validity. Be careful you are not spending money on ineffective products.
You can review these reliable websites to get unbiased discussions on dietary supplements:
The following is a description of some supplements related to diabetes:
Cinnamon: Cinnamon has very mild blood sugar lowering ability, but not truly effective in treating high blood sugar. Cinnamon may have the potential of reducing post meal blood sugars. Further research is needed to confirm a positive correlation between blood glucose and cinnamon.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA): Known a lipoic acid, it is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. ALA is being evaluated for perhaps reducing nerve damage in the feet, legs or hands. It may cause low blood sugar and nausea when taken. Also found in dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and also liver and potatoes. Potential to improve insulin sensitivity and slow kidney damage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish oil significantly reduces triglycerides in all people. It does not reduce cholesterol levels or blood sugar, but is ant-inflammatory and may protect against development of heart disease. In large doses, may interact with medications, and also act as a blood thinner.
Polyphenols-Anti-Oxidants: These are found in tea and dark chocolate may protect against cardiovascular disease. Green tea, with the ECGC, may cause anxiety and insomnia if drank in large quantities. The Vit K content of green tea could interfere with anti-coagulant therapy.
Chromium: Chromium is an essential mineral present in small amounts in many foods - a deficiency state is rare. Chromium may improve insulin function. In addition, chromium supplementation has been researched for its effect on blood sugar in people with diabetes, but the studies have given mixed results or are poorly designed. Chromium is safe in low doses, but may cause a drop in blood sugar or kidney problems if overused.
Ginseng: This supplement is being studied, and may help to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Magnesium: Eating a diet high in magnesium may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There is a strong association between low magnesium and insulin resistance. Diabetic patients with low magnesium are supplemented with 200-600 mg. magnesium a day, but higher levels can cause diarrhea.
The aforementioned National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that dietary supplements have a significant benefit for type 2 diabetes.
Reviewed by Clara Schneider MS, RD, RN, CDE, LDN - 05/13