Author's Perspective: Sometimes I hesitated to discuss nutritional supplements during our online classes or workshops because some people would assume that they should starting taking a bunch of vitamin pills without making the necessary dietary changes.
The key word to remember here is "supplement". Vitamin and mineral supplements are just that -- they supplement your primary nutritional program.
So, if you continue to eat poorly, the supplements will not provide the same benefits that you obtain from eating healthy meals.
In addition, because of the insulin resistance, some of the cells may not be able to absorb certain nutrients such as Vitamin C.
Another key point to remember about supplements is to find them as close to nature as possible. And, don't fall for the hype that the supplement is "natural". After all, coal tar is natural!
The Top Supplements for People with Type 2 Diabetes
The following list of supplements is based on the assumption that you are getting most of your vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients from following a sound nutritional program such as the Death to Diabetes Diet.
For example, Vitamin C is an obvious key supplement, but, it is not listed here because Vitamin C can easily be obtained from eating lots of vegetables and some fruits.
Similarly, the B-Complex vitamins are critical to your health, but, they can be obtained from eating foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
The top supplements include the following:
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha lipoic acid is a fatty acid that exists in the mitochondria and is involved in energy metabolism by helping to break down carbohydrates and to make energy for the other organs in the body.
As a supplement, alpha lipoic acid (ALA, α-lipoic acid, C8H14O2S2) is a synthetic version of lipoic acid that has shown benefit against various forms of oxidation and inflammation. These effects carry on to benefits that protect one from heart diseases, liver diseases, diabetes, and neurological decline with age.
Alpha-lipoic acid acts as an antioxidant that works with mitochondria and the body's natural anti-oxidant defenses. ALA is vital to cellular energy production, and helps to neutralize the damage caused by free radicals. ALA is called a universal antioxidant because it is both water-soluble and fat-soluble.
ALA is commonly taken with L-Carnitine supplements as they are related in mechanisms. ALA gives a short but potent reduction of oxidation by increasing anti-oxidant enzymes, and may decrease blood glucose acutely.
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to help prevent certain kinds of cell damage in the body, and also restores vitamin levels such as vitamin E and vitamin C. There is also evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can improve the function and conduction of neurons in diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used for diabetes and nerve-related symptoms of diabetes including burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms. High doses of alpha-lipoic acid are approved in Germany for the treatment of these symptoms.
Alpha-lipoic acid is also used to treat eye-related disorders, such as damage to the retina, cataracts, glaucoma,
Very small quantities of lipoic acid are contained in food sources such as spinach.
Some people use alpha-lipoic acid for memory loss, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS),HIV/AIDS, cancer, liver disease, diseases of the heart and blood vessels (including a disorder called cardiac autonomic neuropathy) and Lyme disease.
Food sources: ALA is found in trace amounts in spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and rice bran. Red meat -- and particularly organ meat -- is also a source of alpha-lipoic acid. The body also makes it in small amounts.
Bilberry is an herb that contains anthocyanosides which are potent antioxidants. These antioxidants strengthen blood vessels and capillary walls, improve red blood cells, stabilize collagen tissues such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage and has cholesterol lowering effects. They also increase retinal pigments that allow the eye to tolerate light.
In addition, bilberry helps to maintain the flexibility of red blood cells, allowing them to pass through the capillaries and supply oxygen. The herb has been shown to be a vasodilator that opens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Since the eyes have a high concentration of capillaries, bilberry may be particularly helpful in improving eyesight.
The herb has been shown to improve night vision, slow macular degeneration, prevent cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Scientific studies have shown improvement in the eyesight, circulation, angina, stroke and atherosclerosis. It is also used to improve varicose veins and has anti-aging effects on collagen structures.
Food source: Bilberry is an herb that is related to the blueberry and is native to Northern Europe.
Carnosine is a dipeptide of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. It is found throughout the body wherever there are high energy demands such as in the brain, the heart, and our muscles.
Carnosine works as an antioxidant to prevent oxidation (free radical damage) and protein glycation (cell damage due to the formation of oxidized sugars (Advanced Glycosylation End-products (AGEs)). AS an antioxidant, carnosine protects vital areas (e.g. heart, brain, eyes, kidneys) from the metabolic demands of energy production and management.
Carnosine acts as an antiglycating agent, reducing the rate of formation of AGEs, which are a factor in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure, and Alzheimer's disease.
Carnosine has been proven to reduce or completely prevent cell damage caused by beta-amyloid protein, one of the prime suspected protein risk factors for Alzheimer's.
Carnosine helps with blood glucose control and with wound healing due to increased expression of growth factors and cytokines involved in wound healing.
Food sources: Protein-rich foods such as beef, fish, chicken; also, found in milk, eggs and cheese..
Chromium is a mineral that our bodies use in small amounts for normal body functions, such as digesting food.
Chromium helps insulin transport glucose into cells, where it can be used for energy and to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy.
The top five health benefits of chromium are:
- Monitors the blood sugar
- Aids metabolism
- Reduces food cravings
- Regulates fat and cholesterol
- Prevents hypertension
Chromium helps with controlling blood sugar and burning fat. There is a link between low chromium levels and increased risk of glaucoma.
Chromium slows the loss of calcium, so it may help prevent bone loss in women during menopause.
Food sources: Brewer's yeast, broccoli, liver, potatoes (especially the skins), cheeses, molasses, spices, whole-grain breads and cereals, meats, seafood, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a nutritional food supplement derived from the liver of cod fish. As with most fish oils, it has high levels of the Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Cod liver oil has historically been taken because of its vitamin A and vitamin D content. It was once commonly given to children, because vitamin D has been shown to prevent rickets and other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
Omega-3s and vitamin D are known for lowering inflammation, preventing blood clotting, preserving brain health and preventing depression.
Cod liver oil has been linked with the following benefits: lowering high cholesterol and high triglycerides, lowering high blood pressure, preventing heart disease and diabetes, reducing risk for osteoarthritis, treating depression, fighting eye disorders like glaucoma and protecting eye sight, helping to heal skin wounds, lowering risk for autoimmune diseases, treating ear infections, allergies and asthma; and, maintaining bone health and preventing fractures or osteoporosis.
Note: Avoid the popular cod liver oils (such as Carlson's) because they are overly processed and heated, which destroys the Vitamin A and D. Instead, get a cod liver that is unprocessed, such as extra virgin cod liver oil (EVCLO) or fermented cod liver oil (FCLO).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule similar to a vitamin that is found in every cell of the body and acts as an antioxidant. It is particularly concentrated in the mitochondria, the energy-producing factories in each of your cells. In fact, the mitochondria provide 90 percent of the energy that fuels cellular activity and keeps us alive.
Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by free radicals. CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, but levels are particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts.
CoQ10 is available in the United States as a dietary supplement. It is also known as Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenone.
CoQ10 is said to help heart failure, as well as cancer, muscular dystrophy, and periodontal disease. It is also said to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise. Some people take it to help reduce the effects certain medicines can have on the heart, muscles, and other organs.
In addition to being a potent antioxidant, CoQ10 helps maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promotes arterial health and supports a strong heartbeat. It also has proven health benefits for your gums, brain and skin.
Food sources: CoQ10 is naturally found in high levels in organ meats such as liver, kidney, and heart, as well as in beef, sardines, and mackerel. Vegetable sources of CoQ10 include spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Digestive enzymes facilitate the chemical breakdown of food into smaller, absorbable components. Enzymes called amylases break down starches into sugar molecules; proteases break down proteins into amino acids; and lipases break down fat into its component parts.
Digestive enzymes, primarily produced in the pancreas and small intestine, break down our food into nutrients so that our bodies can absorb them. Specifically, digestive enzymes break down our food into the following nutrients: amino acids (from proteins), fatty acids and cholesterol (from fats), and simple sugars (from carbohydrates), as well as vitamins, minerals, and a variety of other plant and animal compounds.
Digestive enzymes help fight to keep your gut healthy. They are the key substances of the digestive process, working to break down our food for proper absorption. The four primary digestive enzymes are:
Lipase enzymes, which help digest and assimilate fats.
Protease/Peptidase enzymes, which break down proteins.
Amylase enzymes, which break down carbohydrates or starch.
Cellulase enzymes, which break down cellulose molecules into simple sugars.
Foods sources: Papayas, mangoes, avocados, sprouts and bananas are enzyme-rich foods. But once the fruit or vegetable is ripe, it loses some concentration of its enzymes. When the produce ripens, the enzymes go back to the stem and seeds so that it can reproduce.
Evening Primrose Oil (or Borage Oil)
Evening primrose oil has been shown to reduce blood sugar in diabetic humans and animals. Gamma-linolenic acid may relieve nerve pain and other symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy, including hot and cold thresholds, sensation, tendon reflexes and muscle strength.
Evening primrose oil contains a couple of very important essential fatty acids, including the Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). These help our body produce natural anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins.
According to a study published in Medical Science Research (1988;16:525), evening primrose oil supplementation produced up to ten times as much of these beneficial prostaglandins as did the other oils.
Food sources: Evening primrose oil is derived from the seeds of the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) plant. Borage and black currant oil are other plant sources of these essential fatty acids that are less expensive than evening primrose oil.
Flaxseed contains high levels of the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), along with protein, fiber and plant compounds called lignans that act as antioxidants when ingested.
Lignans present in flaxseed, are known to improve the blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. having flaxseed on a daily basis can help maintain your blood sugar levels over an extended period of time.
These small brown seeds can be consumed whole or ground into flaxseed meal. Grinding makes the inner components more accessible but also makes flaxseed more perishable. The seeds can also be pressed into flaxseed oil, which does not contain the lignans, fiber or protein components but does retain the ALA.
There is some evidence that eating flaxseed reduces blood sugar levels after a meal and increases insulin levels because of its high content of soluble fiber -- it is 28 percent fiber, of which two-thirds is soluble.
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb that is well-known by Ayurvedic doctors in India for its therapeutic role in relation to diabetes mellitus, rheumatic arthritis, weight management and gout. The leaves have antibacterial, anti-allergic, antiviral, and lipid lowering effects.
Gymnema helps support healthy blood sugar levels and contains compounds known as gymnemic acids, which have been shown to slow the transport of glucose from the intestines to the bloodstream.
This, in turn, helps to:
- Lower blood sugar
- Lower hemoglobin A1c
- Help repair and regenerate the pancreatic beta cells in the pancreas
Food source: Gymnema sylvestre is an herb. Its leaves have been used in traditional medicine since the 6th century B.C.
Magnesium is a mineral crucial for energy production and protein synthesis, cellular replication and DNA production. Magnesium has also been shown to decrease insulin resistance, helping to keep blood sugar levels in check.
Food sources: Seaweed, green vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, (almonds, cashews), seeds, brown rice, sprouted grain bread, wheat bran; avocado, cabbage, cucumber.
One of the best sources of magnesium is seaweed, but there are many other sources as well. Green vegetables such as spinach are great sources, because chlorophyll (which gives the vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Beans, peas, nuts — especially almonds and cashews — and seeds are also good. Whole grains, like brown rice, corn, and whole-grain or sprouted wheat bread are good. Wheat bran in any form is high in magnesium. So are avocado, cabbage, cucumber, and many other foods.
As for the seaweed, some people replace table salt with powdered kelp, which they say tastes better than salt and is loaded with magnesium and iodine.
Most Americans should at least consider magnesium supplements such as magnesium citrate and magnesium taurate. But, avoid magnesium oxide because it is poorly absorbed.
Top food sources: Seaweed, squash and pumpkin seeds, beans and lentils, brown rice, avocados, mackerel, dark leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in reducing the risk of heart disease and support brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Omega-3s help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and prevent heart disease, arthritis, lupus, depression, cognitive decline and some cancers.
Research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.
In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Food sources: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, cod, trout, mackerel, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils.
Please Note: Be careful with Omega-3 supplements -- some are overly heated and processed, destroying its healthy nutrients.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses. Probiotic bacteria communicate with and trigger immune responses throughout the body, not just in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
Key benefits include promoting a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system.
There are more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts, helping us to break down food and absorb nutrients.
But probiotics can also help with other types of digestive issues. Research has shown that probiotics can be helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS -- a hard-to-treat condition that can have a range of intestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Testing has confirmed discoveries of the gut as a "second brain". The stronger and more balanced GI tract bacteria are, the less we are emotionally and mentally impaired.
Note: When we take antibiotics, they kill the healthy intestinal flora that helps us digest. Probiotics help to repopulate the digestive tract with healthy bacteria.
Vanadyl sulfate is a trace mineral that mimics insulin in the body and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Food sources: Mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, parsley, dill weed, beer, wine, grain and grain products.
Vitamins are not pills. Vitamins do not exist by themselves. Vitamins are specific molecules or compounds within food that interact with other molecules, enzymes and co-factors to provide specific health benefits.
When you extract that specific molecule from food or create a chemical version of that vitamin in a lab, it is no longer the same vitamin or molecule with the same health benefits!
Vitamin A plays a vital role in bone growth, cell recognition, vision, reproduction and immune function and reproduction. It also helps the skin and mucous membranes repel bacteria and viruses more effectively. It is essential to healthy vision, and may slow declining retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant, which is involved in reducing inflammation through fighting free radical damage. Consuming a diet high in antioxidants is a way to naturally slow aging.
Vitamin A is found in two primary forms: active Vitamin A and beta carotene.
Active or preformed Vitamin A (retinol) comes from animal-derived foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. This “pre-formed” Vitamin A can be used directly by the body; it does not need to first convert the Vitamin.
The other type of Vitamin A, which is obtained from colorful fruits and vegetables, is in the form of “pro Vitamin A” carotenoids, which are converted to retinol by the body after the food is ingested. Beta carotene, a type of carotenoid which is found primarily in plants, needs to first be converted to active Vitamin A in order to be utilized by the body.
Some of the best sources of Vitamin A include eggs, raw milk, liver, carrots, yellow or orange vegetables such as squash, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables, and unprocessed cod liver oil.
The B-Complex Vitamins consist of 8 vitamins:
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate or folic acid)
- B12 (cobalamin)
These vitamins help your body metabolize and convert food into fuel so that it can be used to provide energy for our cells. They also help form red blood cells.
While many of the following vitamins work in tandem, each has its own specific benefits — from promoting healthy skin and hair to preventing memory loss or migraines.
Each B vitamin is essential to certain bodily functions:
- B1 and B2 are important for healthy functioning of the muscles, nerves, and heart
- B3 helps regulate the nervous and digestive systems
- B5 and B12 are required for normal growth and development
- B6 supports the immune system and aids the body in breaking down protein
- B7 is involved in the production of hormones
- B9 helps cells make and maintain DNA
Vitamins B6 and Vitamin B12 support nerve health, which is critical for addressing conditions such as diabetic neuropathy. Biotin is another B-complex vitamin that is necessary for both metabolism and growth. Biotin is also involved in the manufacture and utilization of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
You can get B vitamins from proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas also have B vitamins.
Vitamin C lowers levels of sorbitol, the sugar that can collect in and damage cells in the eyes, kidneys and nerves.
Note: Ascorbic acid is not Vitamin C! It is a chemical compound version of Vitamin C created in a lab.
Vitamin D turns on genes that boost production of antimicrobial peptides called cathelicidins, which destroy viruses, bacteria and other germs. Because people with diabetes are more prone to infections due to diabetic ulcers and periodontal disease, making sure your body has optimal levels of this fat-soluble vitamin is important.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant. It improves glucose control and protects blood vessels and nerves from free radical damage, which is accelerated by the diabetes. Studies have shown that high doses of supplemental vitamin E may even reverse damage to nerves caused by diabetes and protect against diabetic cataracts and atherosclerosis.
Note: Alpha tocopherol is not Vitamin E! Alpha tocopherol is one of the 8 elements of Vitamin E, which consists of 4 tocopherols and all 4 tocotrienols (alpah, beta, delta, gamma).
Also be wary of synthetic forms of Vitamin E known as as dl-tocopherol.
Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract; K2 goes straight to your blood vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver.
The health benefits of vitamin K2 go far beyond blood clotting, which is done by vitamin K1, and vitamin K2 also works synergistically with a number of other nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D.
Its biological role is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also plays a role in removing calcium from areas where it shouldn't be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues.
Food sources: Fermented foods, particularly cheese and the Japanese food natto, which is by far the richest source of K2. Also, available in raw butter.
Wheatgrass is grown from wheat seeds, and contains high amounts of chlorophyll. Wheatgrass cleanses and builds the blood due to its high content of chlorophyll.
Wheatgrass juice is a powerful concentrated liquid nutrient. Two ounces of wheatgrass juice has the nutritional equivalent of five pounds of the best raw organic vegetables.
For example, wheatgrass has twice the amount of Vitamin A as carrots and is higher in Vitamin C than oranges! It contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium in a balanced ratio.
Wheatgrass is a complete source of protein, supplying all of the essential amino acids, and more. It has about 20% of total calories coming from protein. This protein is in the form of poly peptides, simpler and shorter chains of amino acids that the body uses more efficiently in the blood stream and tissues.
Wheatgrass provides the body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and phytonutrients, and is also a powerful detoxifier, especially of the liver and blood.
It helps neutralize toxins and environmental pollutants in the body. This is because Wheatgrass contains beneficial enzymes that help protect us from carcinogens; and, cleanses the body of heavy metals, pollutants and other toxins that may be stored in the body’s tissues and organs.
Note: Powdered and freeze dried wheatgrass supplements are nowhere near as effective as fresh wheatgrass juice.
Food sources: Most people juice it, but wheatgrass is also available in supplement form as a powder or pill. However, the fresh juice provides many more benefits than any of the supplemental forms.
Note: Other supplements that could have been included on this list include Asian ginseng, Bitter melon, Chlorella, Cinnamon, Fiber, Potassium, Spirulina, and Vitamins A, B-Complex, C, E.
Other Supplements for Type 2 Diabetes
There are other supplements that may be beneficial, depending on your specific health needs. Some of those supplements include:
- Asian ginseng
- Bitter melon
- Cod liver oil (unprocessed)
- Ivy gourd (Coccinia indica)
- Omega-3 EFAs
- Pycnogenol (Pine bark)
- Systemic enzymes
- Vitamin D3
Note: You can save yourself a lot of money when buying supplements to improve your health from the author's Nutritional Supplements Brand Names ebook.
Note: This "Top 10" list is evergreen and has grown and been updated, based on new research and clinical findings.
Disclaimer: This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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