Can nutritional supplements help in cases of diabetes? The first thing to do to keep diabetes at bay is to be aware of what we eat, lead a healthy lifestyle and keep track of the different indicators. Also, some supplements and natural products can help and complement these needs and possible deficiencies in the diet. In this guide we offer you the information you need about them.
Diabetes is a disease characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels. If it is not well controlled, it can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and damage to the nervous system.
Today, in addition to medications and insulin injections as treatment, there are some natural products that can help control blood sugar levels. One of them is cinnamon, a spice widely used in cooking; besides bringing that characteristic flavor to our dishes, cinnamon has many health benefits, including helping to reduce sugar levels to control diabetes.
The benefits of cinnamon for diabetics
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. Rich in antioxidants (it is second only to cloves on the list of antioxidant spices and herbs), it helps fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This is particularly interesting, given that oxidative stress is linked to the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Cinnamon and insulin sensitivity
In people suffering from diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not respond to insulin properly, leading to high blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon can help reduce blood sugar levels and fight diabetes by mimicking the effects of insulin and increasing the transport of glucose into the cells.
It may also help lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity, making insulin more efficient at transporting glucose into cells. This is evidenced by two studies in men, in which insulin sensitivity increased after cinnamon consumption; in the first study it increased immediately after consumption with a 12-hour effect, and in the second study an increase was seen after two weeks of cinnamon supplementation. Although these results are promising, there are conflicting results on the effect of cinnamon on hemoglobin A1c, which measures long-term blood sugar control.Cinnamon for diabetes.
On the other hand, it appears that cinnamon is also beneficial in controlling sugar spikes after meals. These spikes cause oxidative stress and inflammation, damaging our cells and increasing the risk of chronic diseases. Some research indicates that cinnamon can keep these spikes under control because it causes our stomach to empty more slowly.
Preventing diabetes complications
In addition to the benefits we have seen above, this spice is very interesting for diabetics thanks to its role in reducing the complications associated with this disease.
People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to suffer from heart disease. Cinnamon can help to reduce this risk by balancing the indicators related to these diseases (1).
This was seen in two studies of patients with type 2 diabetes, in which cinnamon supplementation was associated with a decrease in bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Aspects to take into account when consuming cinnamon
Cinnamon is currently grouped into two main categories; Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia. Both are rich in antioxidants, but Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be of higher quality. Although both types are useful for people with diabetes, more human studies are still needed to show that Ceylon cinnamon has more benefits than Cassia.
But not everything can be positive; it must be taken into account that cinnamon of the Cassia variety is rich in coumarin, a substance that in large quantities can be harmful to our liver. For this reason, and because the consumption of cinnamon can lead to hypoglycemia, it is advisable that diabetics who are thinking of consuming cinnamon to complement their treatment consult with a specialist.
Other supplements that help in diabetes
Low levels of this vitamin are currently related to renal and cardiovascular disorders, which can appear as complications of diabetes. In addition, a recent study by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red-Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y la Nutrición (CIBERobn), part of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, found that vitamin D deficiency is related to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Sun exposure is the major source of vitamin D, although it is also found in certain foods.
The “good bacteria” found in our body can help lower glucose and insulin levels. They also help prevent urinary tract infections and candidiasis, which often occur in people with diabetes. Having balanced levels of bacteria in our gut can improve insulin and colon function and even contribute to a healthy weight.
There are foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi. Nowadays it is relatively easy to obtain probiotic-rich foods, but there are also a variety of probiotic supplements to get that extra help.
Berberine is an alkaloid found in some plants and has a long history in Asia as a natural remedy for diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders. This natural compound is found for example in the plant Coptis chinensis.
Studies in China (2) show that berberine is as effective as metformin in lowering blood sugar levels. It also improves insulin function, reduces glucose production by the liver and slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine. Finally, it improves nerve pain (neuropathy) and kidney disease.
It is important to respect the recommended doses to avoid side effects such as stomach pain and other digestive disorders.
Keeping sugar levels under control is synonymous with health for diabetics, and here melatonin can be a great ally; melatonin is the sleep hormone and when you have low levels of this hormone, disorders such as insomnia can appear, impacting glucose control.
Our body produces melatonin, and it is also found in some foods such as nuts. In addition, there are different supplements that can help.
You can refer to the study conducted in Israel for three weeks, in which the results show how A1C levels dropped in people with diabetes who took a 2-milligram dose of extended-release melatonin two hours before bedtime.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that protects our blood vessels from the action of free radicals, which cause cellular oxidation.
ALA is present in red meat, liver, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. It helps glucose to reach the muscles and improves neuropathies as a consequence of diabetes.
This mineral helps lower blood sugar levels, relaxes muscles and is involved in numerous functions of our body. It also reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Like many other compounds and nutrients, magnesium is found in some foods and can be supplied through the diet; this mineral is found in green leafy vegetables, some berries and tropical fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and fish such as herring. It is also present in dark chocolate. Despite its availability, the general population has quite low levels of this mineral and the recommended amounts are not reached, so a magnesium supplement can be a good way to supplement deficiencies to reach the recommended levels. This is of particular importance for diabetics, as it appears that people with this disease are more prone to magnesium losses through urine. In addition, several studies conclude that people with diets rich in magnesium have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Nature offers options that we can take into account to control diabetes. If you have any doubts or if you are thinking of including any of these natural alternatives as part of your treatment, consult your doctor to find a personalized option.