Vitamin or mineral supplements may be helpful for someone with diabetes if they have a deficiency. Additionally, certain products may help with some symptoms or side effects. However, potential interactions and safety issues mean people should check with a healthcare professional before using supplements.
Diabetes refers to a group of conditions that affect how the body processes blood glucose, also known as blood sugar. Management of the condition involves keeping blood sugars in a target range to prevent potential complications. Some evidence suggests that certain vitamins may help to remedy some diabetes complications. However, before trying any supplements, it is important for people to consider potential drug interaction and safety issues.
This article discusses whether vitamins can help with diabetes and what the research says about common supplements that people may consider.
Some people may consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements to boost their nutrients or to help with symptoms or complications of diabetes. Some supplements can affect how the body processes and metabolizes glucose. However, more research is necessary to determine whether vitamins can provide beneficial antiglycemic effects.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) cautions that people must first question if a supplement may cause them harm. For example, some ingredients may cause hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or negatively interact with diabetes medications.
Furthermore, the Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2022 states there is no clear evidence that dietary supplements with vitamins, minerals, herbs, or spices can help with the management of diabetes. However, if someone has a deficiency — for example, vitamin B12 or vitamin D — a doctor may advise that they remedy this with a supplement.
The following sections discuss some common supplements that people with diabetes may consider.
Chromium is a trace mineral that helps the body use glucose efficiently and may be beneficial for insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control.
Vitamin B12 supplements may be helpful for an individual with diabetes that is also deficient in the vitamin. For example, a
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may help reduce pain from diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can occur with diabetes. A
While more research is still necessary, some evidence suggests that vitamin D may decrease the risk of developing autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, and may enhance insulin sensitivity. Additionally, a 2022 study indicates that adding vitamin D supplementation to insulin therapy may help to slow disease progression in children with a recent diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
A 2019 review suggests that supplementing cinnamon may reduce fasting blood glucose levels but did not have a significant effect on A1C levels, body weight, insulin levels, or insulin resistance. As such, people should interpret the results with caution and continue using the diabetes medications their healthcare professional prescribes.
Some people may take niacin to help improve their cholesterol profile. However, people who take niacin to improve their cholesterol profile must be careful if they have diabetes. Niacin raises fasting glucose levels which is a risk for people with diabetes. Therefore, a person should discuss taking niacin with their healthcare professional.
St John’s Wort
A 2020 review of cell and rodent studies suggests that the herb St. John’s Wort may counteract the inflammation present in diabetes and protect the cells in the pancreas, improving insulin resistance. However, the review notes that scientists need to confirm efficacy and dosages before recommending that clinicians use it.
Additionally, it is
Health experts typically advise that it is preferable for people to consume vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements. Whole foods contain enzymes, fiber, and other compounds that help the body absorb nutrients from food. Therefore, people with diabetes should aim to follow a healthy eating plan to obtain the necessary nutrients.
The ADA gives tips for eating a healthy diet using the diabetes plate method, which helps people eat vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates in the correct proportion.
However, if someone has a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it may be helpful to take a supplement. A person can determine if they have a deficiency by taking a blood test.
Some supplements may help address certain side effects or complications of diabetes. However, others may affect blood sugar regulation and interact with diabetes medication. Therefore, a person living with diabetes who is considering supplements should first discuss their options with their diabetes healthcare team.