Vitamin D and 6 More Supplements to Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes or are among the estimated 79 million Americans at risk for the disease, there’s some good news about how vitamin D and other natural supplements can help you better manage the disease. Whether it’s better glucose control, prevention of diabetes complications, improved insulin resistance, or more, there are supplements that may help.
New study finds vitamin D helps type 2 diabetes
People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which can cause considerable damage to their blood vessels and quality of life. In a new, placebo-controlled study of 47 people with diabetes, researchers randomly assigned half to take 1,000 International Units of vitamin D daily for 12 months and the other half to take a placebo. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels declined significantly in patients who took vitamin D but not in the placebo group. HbA1c levels are an important indicator of how well glucose is being controlled. The higher the HbA1c level, the greater the risks of developing diabetes complications.
Here are 6 more supplements to consider if you have or are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplement program for the optimal product and dose for your needs.
 Chromium. The benefits of the mineral chromium in type 2 diabetes has been explored for years, and numerous studies have suggested chromium supplements can reduce blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. Not everyone agrees on which form of chromium is best, however.
A 2012 study from Louisiana State University named chromium dinicocysteinate as being superior to chromium picolinate, which has been the suggested form of chromium for diabetes for years. Chromium dinicocysteinate is a combination of elemental chromium, niacin, and L-cysteine (an amino acid). Research showed that patients who took chromium dinicocysteinate for three months had about a 30 percent improvement in fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance.
 Fenugreek. More than a popular spice in Indian food, fenugreek has demonstrated an ability to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose. Some studies have even suggested fenugreek seeds may help prevent complications of diabetes, including retinopathy. Fenugreek seed and powder supplements are available.
 Resveratrol. Use of the potent antioxidant resveratrol, found in red grapes and red wine, has been associated with a significant improvement in HbA1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Resveratrol also may reduce cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, important risk factors for cardiovascular disease in diabetics. A typical dose is 250 mg daily.
 Cinnamon. This sweet supplement has been the topic of many studies in type 2 diabetes, and for good reason. A Nutrition Research article recently reported that type 2 diabetes patients who took cinnamon experienced significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels and triglyceride levels when compared with placebo. The researchers concluded “that cinnamon be considered a promising supplement for the therapy of type 2 diabetes when hyperglycemia cannot be satisfactorily controlled by other strategies such as diet, exercise, and prescribed medication.”
 Curcumin. The tens of millions of people in the United States with prediabetes may want to consider the benefits of curcumin. A study from Thailand among people with prediabetes found that adults who took 250 mg of curcumin for nine months did not progress to develop full-blown diabetes while more than 16 percent of adults who took placebo did develop the disease. The authors noted that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory abilities may protect the beta cells (which produced insulin) from damage.
 Gymnema sylvestre. The secret to this Ayurvedic herb is in its name: its Hindi name, “gurmar,” means “destroyer of sugar.” Supplements of Gymnema sylvestre have been shown to stimulate the pancreas, enhance the release of insulin, reduce blood glucose levels and HbA1c, and improve cholesterol levels. A typical dose is 500 mg daily.
Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are multifaceted conditions, and effective control usually requires a multitargeted approach, including diet, exercise, stress management, and medications (if necessary). Natural supplements can play an important role in helping you successfully manage your type 2 diabetes.
Bhatt JK et al. Resveratrol supplementation improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition Research 2012 Aug. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.06.003
Breslavsky A et al. Effects of high doses of vitamin D on arterial properties, adiponectin, leptin and glucose homeostasis in type 2 diabetic patients. Clinical Nutrition 2013; doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2013.01.020
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chuengsamarn S et al. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2012; published online before print: doi:10.2337/dc12-0116
Jain SK et al. Effect of chromium dinicocysteinate supplementation on circulating levels of insulin, TNF-a, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic subjects: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2012; published online June 6, 2012
Kumar SN et al. An open label study on the supplementation of Gymnema sylvestre in type 2 diabetics. Journal of Dietary Supplements 2010 Sep; 7(3): 273-82
Lu T et al. Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutrition Research 2012 June published online. DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.05.003