The number of dietary supplements claiming to have benefits for people with diabetes is overwhelming! As a pharmacist, some of the most common questions I hear are “What do you think about <fill in supplement here>?” or “Should I be taking <fill in vitamin or mineral here>?” The truth of the matter is one answer does not fit all when it comes to supplements. So, where do you start?
First, let’s look at the evidence. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) are well respected as the major authorities on diabetes treatment. Both organizations agree that there is currently not enough evidence to recommend any dietary supplement for people with diabetes without underlying deficiencies.
This means before you begin taking any dietary supplement, you need to know if you have a low level of the vitamin or mineral you are thinking about supplementing. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients essential for our bodies to function, but you can also have too much of a good thing! It is important to work with your provider to check your levels to see if you need a supplement. And, if you choose to take any supplement, make sure to let your healthcare team know so they can include it on your medication list.
People with diabetes may have a higher risk of being deficient in some micronutrients. The three most recommended micronutrients to talk with your provider about include:
- Vitamin D: One in three Americans may have low vitamin D levels, including people with diabetes. While studies looking at supplementing with high doses of vitamin D to prevent or control diabetes have not proven to be beneficial, having the right amount of vitamin D is very important. Vitamin D not only helps regulate blood sugar, it also maintains bone health and supports other body functions. Depending on your level of vitamin D, your provider may recommend a prescription supplement or one that is available over the counter. So, working with your provider to get the right therapy for you is essential. If you need to supplement vitamin D with an over the counter product, click here to see some options. For more information on vitamin D, you can also read Understanding Your Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency.
- Magnesium: People with type 2 diabetes can be at an increased risk for magnesium deficiency. Low levels of magnesium impact the way your body uses insulin, leading to higher blood glucose. However, like vitamin D, while it is important to have an adequate amount of magnesium, it is not beneficial to have higher than normal amounts. In fact, high magnesium levels can be dangerous, impacting your heart. Your provider should check your levels of magnesium before you begin any supplementation. If your provider recommends an over the counter magnesium supplement, click here to see some options.
- Vitamin B12: Many people with type 2 diabetes take the medication metformin. Metformin is very effective for treatment of type 2 diabetes and is often the first medication started after diagnosis based on its benefits in blood glucose control and prevention of cardiovascular complications. However, long term use of metformin can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause many problems including blood abnormalities, osteoporosis, and neurological issues if left untreated. The good news is there are many simple treatment options for vitamin B12 deficiency, and with supplementation most people can continue metformin without any issues. Make sure to ask your provider to test your vitamin B12 levels if you are taking metformin. If your provider recommends that you take an over the counter supplement, click here to see some options.
While some dietary supplements may be beneficial, many vitamins and minerals can also be found in your food! The National Institutes of Health recommends that most people get the necessary vitamins and minerals by eating nutrient dense foods as part of a healthy diet. This same healthy diet, along with taking your prescribed medications, will also help manage your diabetes.
For more information on eating a healthy diet and more options for personalized recommendations, please visit https://www.krogerhealth.com/nutrition/.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.