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Dietary Supplements that Improve Diabetes

« WeCare Blog | March 2, 2020 |
Food and drink
Dietary Supplements

The patient’s difficulty to control their diabetes can, in many cases, lead to frustration from the lack of results or can lead to a need to quickly see improvements in order to want to continue sticking with the treatment. The direct relationship between diabetes and food pushes many patients to seek help through dietary supplements. In addition, commercial interests can have an influence by advertising that some products can provide benefits beyond what they realistically can do.

At this point, it’s necessary to remember that a varied and balanced diet provides all the necessary nutrients for the development and maintenance of an optimal state of health as well as optimal diabetes control. But what does science say?

What Science Says

The beneficial effect of dietary and plant supplements for diabetes control is doubtful. For some, they can be very useful, while for others the so-called “placebo affect” is thought to have taken place, whereby an improvement in health is produced by the mere act of receiving a treatment, although the treatment itself is deemed totally ineffective.

There are hundreds of studies in respect to this that endorse endless theories about nutritional supplements. Understanding and being able to judge studies is a job reserved for Scientific Societies. In the case of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association is one of the sources of reference, publishing its recommendations on the treatment of diabetes annually, based on research and scientific consensus.

Among these recommendations, those that focus on the diets of people with diabetes are especially recognized. In the guides published in 2014, reference is made to the use of dietary supplements or herbal preparations in people with diabetes. Some of the recommendations included in this guide are summarized below:

  • Omega 3: The recommendation to supplement diabetic people with omega 3 fatty acids for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular problems has not been recognized. In addition, there have been no noted improvements in blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.
  • Vitamins and Minerals:  It’s not recommended that people with diabetes routinely supplement with vitamins and minerals. The situation is different for certain groups of people with a higher risk of nutritional deficits such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, vegetarians or those who follow restrictive diets. In these cases, supplementation with vitamins and minerals may be necessary on a regular basis.
  • Antioxidants: Despite the enormous interest shown by many researchers, a positive relationship between the risk and benefit with supplementation by antioxidant substances isn’t currently recognized. In addition, the long-term safety of taking vitamin E, C or carotene supplements isn’t clear.
  • Chromium and magnesium:  In recent years, these supplements have been studied in depth, finding positive results for their usefulness in people with type 2 diabetes. In any case, higher-quality studies are needed to establish a recommendation on their routine use.
  • Cinnamon: Despite this being a very common food in Mediterranean cuisine, there is also insufficient information on the benefits of using cinnamon or other medicinal herbs.
  • It is true that there are many other supplements, such as Ginseng, Aloe Vera or Stevia that have been related to an improvement in blood glucose levels.  Currently, the published studies are not enough to establish a recommendation because, in each case, not only must its benefit be demonstrated, but also its safety. 

In this sense, the American Diabetes Association emphasizes the difficulty in evaluating the relationship between benefit and risk of these supplements, since in many cases, they don’t contain a stable dose of the active substance.

It’s especially important to advise all people with diabetes to inform their doctors about the types of dietary supplements they’re taking. With this information, they may take into account the needs of each individual and the possible interactions that may occur with the pharmaceuticals they’re taking.


The content of this article is for informational use and is not in any case should it replaces the consultation of the instructions for use of the device or the opinion, diagnosis or treatment prescribed by the doctor. Always consult with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment information and strictly follow your doctor's instructions. Medtronic cannot be held responsible in any way for any damage caused, or presumably caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained in this article.