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From chromium into herbal remedies promising to stabilize levels of blood sugar. Over the counter diabetes mellitus, and nutritional supplements continue to make their way into the hands of individuals that wish to learn the method of managing diabetes the natural way.


More than 50% of people with diabetes take nutritional supplements, and those with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely; like those with type 1 to experiment with herbal treatments, and other nonvitamins, non-mineral pills, and capsules. This was reported by colleagues in the May and June issue of The Diabetes Educator. The question is, should they? More than 80% of diabetes mellitus patients are taking prescription drugs to help control their blood sugar.


Approximately 58% use more than one oral diabetes mellitus drugs, such as:

  • Sulfonylureas
  • Meglitinides
  • Stimulate insulin release.
  • Biguanides that reduce glucose production by the liver.
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors which block the breakdown of starches.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors; which maintain a blood sugar controlling chemical called GLP-1 active longer.
  • Thiazolidinediones that enhance insulin action.


Another 26% of individuals coupled with agents or use insulin alone. Given the number of diabetes mellitus patients taking prescription drugs, Anna Nabutovskaya, CDE, RD, of Maimonides Medical Center at Brooklyn, N.Y., doesn’t advocate over the counter nutritional supplements for fear of potential contraindications.


“I’d never advised anyone into taking extra chromium or magnesium, or into using supplement level doses of herbal remedies which claim into lower blood sugar”, she says. One concern is hypoglycemia. A high dose supplement and a diabetes mellitus drug could interact and cause dangerously low blood glucose.


Supplement Controversy – With regards to tablets, capsules, powders, and teas which claim to control blood sugar, RDs along with other health care practitioners agree which the research does not support the miracle cure reputation many nutritional supplements have developed. And with little research available on adverse effects and possible interactions with oral diabetes mellitus medications, insulin, along with other drugs diabetes mellitus patients frequently use, not enough is known about long-term safety.


“Consider cinnamon, which is emerging as one of the latest herbal remedies for blood sugar control. A recent meta-analysis reported that whole cinnamon or extract lowers fasting blood glucose by about 10 mg/L”, says Evan Sisson, PharmD, MHA, CDE, an associate professor in the department of pharmacotherapy and now an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.


While these results are interesting, a patient with an A1c of 8% requires at least a 30 mg/L lowering of blood glucose to achieve the goal A1c of less than 7%. Supplements can be regarded as adjunctive agents of prescription remedies for hyperglycemia, not something to use in place of medications.


Constance Brown Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says “the unknowns about cinnamon mean which individuals with diabetes mellitus should steer clear or be extremely careful. We know that utilizing small amounts of food as spice are safe, but we do not know the effects of using larger doses in capsule form every day for months or years”.

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