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Learn How Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Managed Well With The Support of Supplements

Medically reviewed by Dr. Lisa Angelica Kuhn · एंडोक्राइनोलॉजी · Makati Medical Center


Written by Manjari Khare · Updated 29/11/2021

Learn How Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Managed Well With The Support of Supplements

For most people living with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels comes down to following a well-balanced diet with positive lifestyle changes and the use of medications that are prescribed by healthcare professionals. 

To better understand the challenges, thoughts, and feelings of people living with type 2 diabetes, with regard to blood sugar management, Hello Health Group conducted a survey across Southeast Asia^. 

The survey revealed some interesting findings, with 2 out 5 patients living with diabetes wanting to learn more about the role that diabetes nutritional supplements or formulations could play in managing diabetes more effectively. Despite their interest, 93% of the responders said that they had trouble finding trustworthy sources of information on the use of such nutritional formulas.

However, just 33% of diabetes patients feel confident in their ability to adhere to a healthy dietary regime to manage diabetes effectively^. (read more about this in our article here)

With a better understanding of specific diabetes nutritional supplements, and how they can support your overall diabetes management plan, you can feel empowered and more in control of your condition.

What kind of nutritional supplements can help with diabetes?

A nutrition supplement is a product that is consumed in the form of a pill, capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid to supplement one’s diet. Such supplements contain ingredients that provide you with nutrients such as vitamins or/and minerals. Diabetes-specific nutritional supplements can offer extra nutritional support to support those with diabetes, as they usually focus on meeting the nutritional needs of those living with the condition, as well as controlling blood sugar levels.

So, what are some of the most common diabetes-specific supplements?

Vitamin B12

People living with diabetes are often advised to consume B12 supplements, especially if they are on higher doses of metformin (diabetes medication) to control type 2 diabetes. This is because some studies suggest that regular metformin use can give rise to vitamin B12 deficiency in many of those living with diabetes1

Some of the common signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, peripheral neuropathy, depression, and cognitive impairment1. Even if you have a valid reason to believe that you may have a B12 deficiency, it would still be a good idea for you to speak to your healthcare professional before taking any supplements. Your doctor may recommend certain tests to confirm or rule out a B12 deficiency. 

Vitamin D

Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D deficiency is believed to be linked to type 2 diabetes, but there is no clear consensus as more research is needed 2,3. A deficiency of the vitamin can impair glycaemic control4, and supplementation can help improve blood glucose control5

Vitamin D has been shown to benefit people living with type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity, enhancing glucose transportation, and indirectly affecting insulin secretion via calcium6. Vitamin D also supports the normal function of the immune system9. People with type 2 diabetes who have vitamin D deficiency are at higher risk of developing diabetes-related complications including damage to the nerves and eyes8.

Aside from spending more time in the sunlight, you can boost your vitamin D intake by consuming foods such as red meat, liver, egg yolks, and oily fish such as salmon and sardines. While these foods may be off-limits for most vegetarians, vitamin D can also be obtained from food products that are fortified with the vitamin, including breakfast cereals such as Dalia, semolina, ragi, and oats, among others. 

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that exists in all human cells and is involved in various processes in the body. Higher zinc intake is believed to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The mineral works as an antioxidant that protects insulin and cells from being attacked by free radicals (cell-damaging unstable atoms). Zinc is also an essential nutrient for the healthy functioning of the immune system9.

The human body can’t naturally produce or store zinc. Those with diabetes have lower blood zinc levels as compared to individuals without diabetes10,11,12. Other than diabetes-specific supplementation, zinc can also be obtained from foods such as beans, nuts, and seafood like crab and lobster.

Chromium 

Chromium is a nutrient that can be found in common food sources. These include egg yolks, coffee, nuts, green beans, and broccoli. Those living with diabetes have lower levels of chromium in the body compared to those without diabetes10,11,12

Chromium can make it easier to stabilise and manage blood glucose levels13. Long-term use of chromium can also help reduce the incidence of diabetes symptoms such as fatigue, thirst, and frequent urination in those living with the condition14

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)

MUFAs are a healthy type of fat that can be found in foods such as olive oil, nuts (ie. almonds, cashews, pistachios), avocados, and peanut oil. A higher intake of MUFAs can increase protection against heart disease by improving various factors that affect heart disease risk15. These healthy fats are shown to lower total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol levels while maintaining levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol. 

MUFAs can also provide health benefits for blood vessel function, with some research suggesting that they may support blood sugar regulation and healthy insulin levels15

In addition to the nutritional supplements listed here, other diabetes dietary supplements of interest include Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), cinnamon, fenugreek, and Gymnema supplements, however, more research is needed to support their use16,

Diabetes-specific formulas

Diabetes-specific formulas typically contain low glycaemic index (GI) and slow digesting carbs (ie. whole grains, barley, brown rice) that can help to strengthen the glycaemic response as they only cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels16. In simpler terms, the glycaemic response is the effect that food or meals have on blood glucose after consumption. 

Ensure® is the world’s best-selling diabetes supplement nutrition drink and contains 35 nutrients for effective blood glucose management*. It is clinically-proven to help manage sugar spikes** and has a low glycaemic index (GI) to help manage blood sugar response***. The diabetes specific formula can also help to regulate hunger and contains chromium, which supports the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels.

Formulations such as these also contain high-quality protein and have a high content of MUFAs and fiber. This blend of nutrients is shown to delay the process of gastric emptying, which is important to help avoid sugar spikes and maintain feelings of satiety. This formulation also helps to slow the absorption of carbs in the digestive system.

Support your diabetes management plan with supplementation

While your diet remains the best source of balanced nutrition, the challenges of managing a strict dietary regime can make it hard to maintain optimal levels of nutrition. Nutritional supplements and diabetes-specific formulas can play an important supporting role in such scenarios, making it easier for you to meet your nutritional requirements and manage your blood sugar levels. 

In fact, medical nutrition therapy or MNT is an important component of diabetes management programs, which is why it is recommended that a registered dietician be included in any multispecialty diabetes management team. This is particularly important when dealing with people living with diabetes who also fall into select groups, such as strict vegetarians, pregnant or nursing mothers, aged adults, and those on calorie-restricted diets18.

With the right information on supplementation, you can work out a truly effective diabetes management plan that works for you, especially when this involves a combination of other lifestyle modifications, such as engaging in regular physical activity, diet planning and taking medications in accordance with the instructions of your healthcare professional. If you are considering supplements, make sure that you first discuss options that work best for you with your healthcare professional.

Want to know what else you can couple with supplementation to effectively manage diabetes? Take our fun quiz here to find out how emotions and external factors like moral support from loved ones around can help you live life to the fullest!

Footnotes:

^The survey was commissioned by Abbott and conducted by Hello Health Group from May to July 2021 across Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, India, and Taiwan with 771 respondents who live with type 2 diabetes.

* Glucerna includes slow release carbohydrates to help minimize blood sugar spikes among people living with diabetes.

** Devitt, A.A., Oliver, J.S., Hegazi, R.A. and Mustad, V.A., 2012. Glycemia targeted specialized nutrition (GTSN) improves postprandial glycemia and GLP-1 with similar appetitive responses compared to a healthful whole food breakfast in persons with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Metabolism, 1(20), pp.1-18. 

*** Source: Euromonitor International Limited; total global retail sales in 2020 for diabetic diet enhancer drinks that are not marketed as a meal replacement product. Euromonitor and Abbott calculation based in part on Lifestyle Nutrition custom homescan panel database and Health Shopper survey for Abbott’s custom Diabetes Nutrition category for the 52 weeks ending January 2nd, 2021 time period, Total US All Outlet. Copyright © 2021, NielsenIQ Consumer LLC., and Euromonitor Passport Consumer Health 2021

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Medically reviewed by

Dr. Lisa Angelica Kuhn

एंडोक्राइनोलॉजी · Makati Medical Center


Written by Manjari Khare · Updated 29/11/2021

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