Vitamin D and Diabetes

vitamin d logo

vitamin d logoVitamin D is one of the more fascinating substances I have researched in the diabetes arena. It provides a number of important functions, regardless of whether you have diabetes or not. I will discuss these issues more fully below, but the good stuff really comes when you start looking at the impact of the substance on diabetes.

Multiple studies suggest that the impact on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is startling. While I caution that research is ongoing, initial results suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be a significant cause of diabetes, which means there may be hope to stop people from getting it. Additionally, vitamin d may play a role in slowing the progression of diabetes if you already have it.

So, what exactly is Vitamin D? Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all. It is a hormone. Initially discovered in the 1930’s, vitamin D was originally “famous” for helping children avoid contracting rickets. Rickets is a disease where the bones don’t develop or harden properly.

If you have ever watched the Lil Rascals television show, you may remember the funny scenes where the kids were required to consume cod liver oil. Back then, scientists didn’t know that cod liver oil (and other fish sources) was a good source of vitamin D. They only knew that the oil helped the kids avoid rickets!

Upon vitamin D’s discovery, you now see one of the main reasons it was added to milk. The other reason is that vitamin D is needed to process calcium to help your bones stay strong. Among other reasons, calcium is also important to help your nervous system and muscles work properly. Calcium wouldn’t work without vitamin D helping it out.

As we will touch on more below, vitamin D may also help the following:

  • Avoid Cancer (colon, prostate, breast, ovarian)
  • Reduce Heart Disease
  • Avoid or Minimize Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduce Risk of Developing MS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s
  • Avoid or Improve Certain Mental Health Conditions (e.g., depression)

Diabetes Connection

I would first note that the following research is very compelling. However, there is still some debate amongst scientists. Probably, the best summation of the diabetes and vitamin D connection was done by Dan Hurley in his book Diabetes Rising. I review his excellent book Here. I encourage everyone to read Dan’s excellent book on this topic.

For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the increased prevalence during the last 20-30 years has been nothing short of breathtaking. What was once a fairly uncommon disease has risen to the level of an epidemic. One explanation, or contributing factor, for this rise is that people are spending more and more time indoors and/or lathered in sunscreen. These two factors directly contribute to a reduction in vitamin D.

Think about, how much time do you spend watching TV? How much time do you, your kids or grand kids spend playing video games? If we are honest, too much!

Type 1

In one 30 year study of children in Scandinavia (think long winters with little sunlight), it found that children were almost 80 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes if given a daily vitamin D supplement of 2,000 IU. This is a remarkable difference. Conversely, other studies have found that children living in sunnier climates are far less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than their counterparts living in gloomier northern climates.

But, it may not just help you avoid diabetes, it may also help you slow the progression. Vitamin D may help slow the destruction of beta cells in people with type 1 diabetes. Of course, if you have had type 1 for years this probably isn’t going to do you any good. However, if you are newly diagnosed with type 1, you may still have some insulin producing beta cells remaining. A sharp increase in vitamin D supplementation may help sustain these cells, thus reducing your long term needs for larger doses of insulin.

This last assertion is open to some speculation. However, if you or a loved one is recently diagnosed with type 1, talk to your doctor immediately. As discussed below, there typically is no toxicity with increasing vitamin D intake (to a certain point), so there should be no harm in supplementing. Get to your doctor to discuss!!

Type 2

Here is where it gets even more interesting, if this is possible. There have been several European studies that suggest that decreased vitamin D levels in people reduce insulin production and increases insulin resistance.

This is bad right? Basically your body produces less insulin and doesn’t use the insulin it does produce well. This is the very problem facing people with type 2 diabetes. Here are some other studies that look into the relationship between Vitamin D and diabetes.

Reduced Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes: A large United States based study theorized that increased vitamin D intake in women significantly lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While I would note that this study was not looking specifically at this issue, there was, however, a very strong correlation (33 percent) in its overall conclusion.

Poor Glucose Control: A 2010 John’s Hopkins study of 124 people with type 2 diabetes found that 91 percent of them had a vitamin D deficiency. Interestingly enough, the greater the deficiency the worse the subjects A1C levels were. The study noted that racial minorities tended to be more vitamin D deficient. While the study stopped short of concluding that vitamin D deficiency is the cause of poor glucose control, it did advocate that all people with diabetes be screened for the deficiency.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity: A small study released in 2011 by the Albert Einstein College of medicine looked at 8 vitamin D deficient patients. The subjects received large daily doses of vitamin d for two months to get them to normal levels. At the end of the two months, insulin receptivity (the ability of your cells to use insulin) increased by 37 percent. This is a remarkable increase.

There are many more studies, but you get the point. Vitamin D may help prevent diabetes and may help with glucose control if you already have the condition. I would note that most researchers agree that further study is needed to definitively establish the link.

How Much Should You Take?

Here is where things get a little murky. The National Institute of Health has set forth the following Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA):

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactating
0-12 Months400 IU (10mcg)400 IU (10mcg)
1-13 Years600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)
14-18 Years600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)
19-50 Years600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)
51-70 Years600 IU (15mcg)600 IU (15mcg)
70+ Years800 IU (15mcg)800 IU (15mcg)

The NIH has established the upper limit of vitamin D intake:

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactating
0-6 Months1,000 IU (25 mcg)1,000 IU (25 mcg)
7-12 Months1,500 IU (38 mcg)1,500 IU (38 mcg)
1-3 Years2,500 IU (63 mcg)2,500 IU (63 mcg)
4-8 Years3,000 IU (75 mcg)3,000 IU (75 mcg)
9 Years and Older4,000 IU (100mcg)4,000 IU (100mcg)4,000 IU (100mcg)4,000 IU (100mcg)

I would note that some scientists suggest 2,000 IU daily for best results. My suggestion would be to check with your doctor and establish a plan that is safe for you.

Sources

vitamin d and sunshine
Natural Sunlight: The safest way to get your vitamin D is through natural sunlight. If you are Caucasian and not very tan, then 10-15 minutes in the sun with a short sleeve shirt and shorts is plenty. If you are tan or have darker skin, then you need approximately 20 minutes. There is no toxicity risk of receiving too much of the vitamin in this manner.

The problem is that if you live in a northern climate, even if you joined a polar bear club and ran around naked for 3 hours a day outside, you still couldn’t get enough. Which leads us to the next two options.

Food: Food sources are somewhat limited. You could eat fortified foods, such as milk, orange juice or cereal. Additionally, the highest natural food sources per serving are:

  • Cod Liver Oil (1 tablespoon) 1,360 IU
  • Swordfish (3 oz.) 566 IU
  • Salmon (3 oz.) 447 IU

As you can see, if you want to achieve a higher amount of daily intake, it is hard with natural foods.

Supplements: For people who work indoors or live in a northern climate, supplementation is typically the only way to get the higher intake of vitamin D. When you go to the store to purchase your supplements, you will notice that there are two different types, D2 and D3.

At lower levels, most scientists suggest there is not a big difference between the two types of vitamin D. However, if you are looking to do some of the higher doses, then there is a difference and I typically see D3 recommended. The issue is that D3 is much more effective than D2 at the higher levels.

Again, check with your doctor to determine the right plan for you.

US News & World Report (accessed July 2013).
WebMD.com (accessed July 2013).
Diabetes.org (accessed July 2013).
DiabetesJournals.org (accessed July 2013).
Vitamin D and Diabetes May 2011, NIH.gov Publication (accessed July 2013).

Cinnamon and Diabetes – This Treatment is No Joke!

cinnamon lowering glucose

sticks of cinnamonThe link between cinnamon and diabetes for glucose control is arguably the most talked about of any natural diabetic treatment. However, is there any truth to the talk about cinnamon as a treatment for diabetes? Does it really work? What exactly is the connection and what do the studies say?

After all, seemingly every month there is a new study will come along touting the benefits of one substance or another in treating diabetes. In this case, it appears there is some substance to the talk.

Cinnamon has been around since ancient times and has been referenced in many ancient texts including the bible. Its traditional uses have varied ranging from a spice, medicinal purposes and as an insect repellent.
cinnamon and diabetes

Cinnamon is actually a small evergreen tree. It is prepared by grinding the inner bark, soaking it in a saltwater solution, and then quickly distilling the mixture (essentially removing the water). With time, the remaining powder will darken and become quite aromatic. Cinnamon originated from Southern Asia and India.

However, there are approximately 250 species of cinnamon, so you should understand more about the substance and how the right type may help you manage your diabetes.

The most common type of cinnamon is cinnamon zeylanicum, often referred to as “true” cinnamon. This is the type of cinnamon you usually buy in the grocery store.

A related species is cinnamon aromaticum, commonly referred to as “cassia.” This type of cinamon can also be sold in grocery stores. The difference may or may not be important. Some studies make a distinction between the type of cinnamon, while many others do not make any distinction.

WHAT THE STUDIES SAY

cinnamon lowering glucoseThere are a lot of different studies looking at cinnamon and diabetes control. Here are a few highlights.

In a 2003 study, the effect of cassia on blood glucose and cholesterol was conducted. The hope was not only to control glucose levels, but also lower cholesterol levels to reduce the overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The cinnamon and diabetes study participants were divided into three groups. The amount of cinnamon given was either 1 gram, 3 grams or 6 grams a day.

After only 40 days, cassia was found to lower blood glucose levels (up to 29%), triglycerides (up to 30%), LDL cholesterol (up to 27%) and overall cholesterol (by up to 26%). Regarding the blood sugar, the study found that cassia increased the cells receptivity to insulin, thus reducing insulin resistance.

All three cinnamon and diabetes study groups showed positive results. Thus, as little as 1 gram of cinnamon could be helpful in your diet.

In a 2006 study, scientists concluded that a compound in cinnamon zeylanicum (cinnamtannin B1) lowered insulin resistance, thus lowering blood glucose levels. This study was not conducted on humans, while the 2003 study was.

A 2007 study in India found that cinnamaldehyde, a chemical compound in cinnamon, reduced blood glucose levels in diabetic laboratory rats up to 63 percent depending upon the dosage given. It also had the effect of lowering cholesterol levels.

Another 2007 human study looked at the effect of cinnamon on glucose levels at various times following a meal. The study participants who took 6 grams of cinnamon with a meal had a significantly lower blood glucose level after the meal than those who did not take the cinnamon. The type of cinnamon used was not specified.

Even more recently, a 2012 study from China took 66 type 2 diabetics and divided them into three groups: placebo (no cinnamon given), low dose (120 mg) and high dose (360 mg). The low dose group on average saw a drop of 18.2 mg/l in their blood glucose levels after 3 months. The high dose saw an average drop of 29.2 mg/l. The placebo group did not change. Obviously, this is a significant result.

Bottom line is that there appears to be a real cinnamon and diabetes treatment connection. Yes, there are studies out there that suggest there is no significant connection or take aim at the methodology used in some of the successful studies. No, cinnamon probably doesn’t work for everybody. Nonetheless, supplementing with cinnamon does not appear to have any adverse effect and it might just help you control your diabetes. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.

Sea Vegetables and Diabetes – What Have You Been Missing?

Why sea vegetables and diabetes? The answer has more to do with any given person’s health, not just a diabetic’s. Recently, a national public television special hosted by Olivia Newton John shed some light on this amazing source of food.

THE JAPANESE ANTI-AGING AND ANTI- DISEASE SECRET

Sea Vegetables
The buzz about Sea vegetables is that they are probably the most nutrient rich plant on the planet. Cultures who regularly consume them are amongst the healthiest and longest living in the world. Starting to get the picture about why sea vegetables are so popular?

For example, the Japanese consume more sea vegetables than any other country. Here are the statistics:

  • Japan has the lowest rate of chronic disease in the world.
  • Four times as many Japanese will reach the age of 100, compared with American citizens.
  • Approximately 30,000 Japanese are living over the age of 100.

Very impressive statistics. Nutritionists believe that the health benefit of sea vegetables is because they are crammed full of trace minerals. Minerals are the building blocks of nutrition. They are necessary for healthy nerves, muscles, processing enzymes and aiding metabolism. Moreover, without trace minerals, vitamins could not be processed. So even though many people take a multivitamin every day, if they are not getting enough trace minerals, they may not be properly processing the vitamin.

Additionally, experts claim that the chemical composition of the ocean, the farmland for sea vegetables, is very similar to the chemical composition of our bodies. This similarity is one reason sea vegetables provide such great nutrition. They absorb all of the vital nutrients from the sea. In contrast, studies indicate that the soil in our land based farms is actually depleted and does not contain the essential trace minerals our bodies need. Hence, even though you may be eating the right foods, they may be lacking in the essential minerals.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SEA VEGETABLES

Red Sea Vegetables

  • Found in the deepest waters.
  • Provides feeling of fullness.

Green Sea Vegetables

  • Highest potency of chlorophyll (stimulates red blood cell production).

Brown Sea Vegetables

  • Boosts liver and immune system functions
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Aids digestion

So, sea vegetables and diabetes health can be very important. Remember, most people get type 2 diabetes from poor eating and exercise habits. A major part of this deficiency is poor nutrition.

Certainly there are no studies that specifically look at sea vegetables and their affect on diabetes. However, there is certainly evidence that sea vegetables and trace minerals are good for you. If you have diabetes, being open to foods that stimulate overall health is always important.

Magnesium and Diabetes – How it Can Help You!

magnesium symbol

magnesium symbolMagnesium and diabetes is another well covered alternative treatment subject. Magnesium is the fourth most prevalent mineral in our bodies. Most magnesium is found in our bones, almost 50%, with the remaining portion in the cells. Increasingly, there has been focus on how magnesium may be able to help people manage diabetes.

Magnesium is necessary in almost 300 biochemical processes with the body. It helps maintain nerve and muscle function, improves the immune system, strengthens bones, and keeps the heart rhythm steady. The mineral also is thought to help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and metabolize carbohydrates.

Interestingly, people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetics often have a magnesium deficiency. The condition is often called hypomagnesemia. African Americans are particularly susceptible to a magnesium deficiency based on the typical dietary intake. The lower levels of magnesium may cause or worsen insulin resistance, making it difficult to regulate blood sugar.

One explanation for this may be that increased urination in diabetics may increase the loss of magnesium as the mineral is passed from the body in the urine. Supplementing magnesium deficiency, particularly in older adults, may improve insulin action and response. However, any supplementation needs to be closely monitored, as explained below.

WHAT DO THE MAGNESIUM STUDIES SAY?

At least three studies have found a link between magnesium and its influence on whether someone will develop type 2 diabetes. The first, called the Nurse’s Health Study, was a comprehensive 12-18 year study of over 125,000 people without diabetes. Over this period, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was significantly higher for those with lower levels of magnesium. The study inferred that consuming foods that were high in whole grains, dietary fiber and magnesium helped people avoid developing type 2 diabetes.

Two other studies looked at the link between magnesium intake and developing type 2 diabetes. The Iowa Women’s Study found an increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women who consumed less whole grains, dietary fiber and magnesium were at agreater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Likewise, the Women’s Health Study looked at dietary intake for over 40,000 women. Overweight women, who consumed less dietary magnesium, were at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It should be noted that there have been other studies that have not found a correlation between magnesium intake and developing diabetes, so the link is definetely not an absolute certainty.

What about those who already have diabetes? Is there any benefit to increasing magnesium?

Two studies have specifically looked at this issue. One study found that people who increased magnesium intake over a 16 week period had better glucose control and actually lowered their A1c levels. The other study did not find any correlation between magnesium supplementation and glucose control. I would note that both studies had patients take a magnesium supplement, NOT an increase in magnesium through food intake. This is important as we note in the next section.

MAGNESIUM INTAKE RECOMMENDATIONS

In today’s culture, many people just want to “pop a pill” and have their health problem handled. While some nutritional supplements may be fine for this type of solution, you should be careful doing this with magnesium.

The Upper Limit of magnesium through supplementation is 350mg per day. This is a fairly small amount and it is easy to over due it with magnesium supplementation. Too much magnesium in supplement form can be toxic.

Instead, the Recommended Dietary Allowance of magnesium, through food intake, is 400mg per day for men until they reach 31 years old, then it increases to 420mg. For women, the RDA is 310 mg per day, then at 31 years old it increases to 320mg. Again, this is through food intake.

We have written extensively on this site about the power of a diet heavy on whole grains and vegetables. This type of diet is very relevant when it comes to getting enough magnesium. Magnesium is primarily found in green vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

Here is a partial list of magnesium rich foods in no particular order. All of the listed grains are whole grain, not processed grains.

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pecans
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Mustard Green
  • Broccoli
  • Pea
  • Green Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Beats
  • Corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Bran
  • Shredded Wheat
  • Bananas

 

SOURCE:

Gloria Y. Yeh, David M. Eisenberg, Ted J. Kaptchuk, and Russell S. Phillips, Systematic Review of Herbs and Dietary Supplements for Glycemic Control in Diabetes, Diabetes Care 26: 1277-1294.
CAM and Diabetes: A Focus on Dietary Supplements, National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine, NNCACM Publication No. D416, June 2008.
Magnesium, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health (Accessed April 2013).
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed May 2013.

Green Tea and Diabetes – It’s Great For You!

gren tea on tableWhy is green tea and diabetes the newest health craze? Every once in a while, something comes along that has seemingly no downside and huge upside. Green tea is one of those things. Let’s take a look at what this ancient drink has to offer us!

Green teas come from the camellia sinensis tea plant. The difference between different teas (for example, black, green, white) is the processing method. Green teas undergo the least amount of processing.

The lack of processing is thought to allow green tea to retain the highest concentration of antioxidants compared with other types of teas. As a reminder, antioxidants are substances that help the body eliminate or control substances that can damage our cells. Green tea comes in many varieties and is often identified by the region where it is grown.

BENEFITS ASSOCIATED WITH DRINKING GREEN TEA

  • Slow or Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

One study using mice found that the antioxidant EGCG in green tea can slow, if not prevent type 1 diabetes.

  • Lowers Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetics

Drinking green tea may lower blood sugar spikes. Over time, reducing these spikes lowers a person’s chance of developing diabetes complications, such as eye, kidney and nerve damage.

  • Reduces Diabetes Complications

Green tea can reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cataracts. The tea is also thought to promote bone and joint health.

  • Weight Loss

green tea farm
green tea farm
Green tea is also touted as promoting weight loss. In fact, Dr. Perricone, the anti-aging guru, claims that a person can lose 10 pounds if they drink green tea instead of coffee for 6 weeks.

Here are some other benefits associated with consuming green tea:

  • May Help Prevent various Cancers
  • Can Reduce Stress and Depression
  • Treats Inflammation
  • Boosts Immunity to Colds and Flu
  • Increased Memory and Brain Function
  • General Well Being

As you can see, the benefits of drinking green tea not only help with diabetes treatment, the drink promotes excellent overall health. Maybe, it’s time to put down the coffee cup and pick up a tea kettle!

For a comprehensive look at even more green tea benefits, check out Amazing Green Tea. This is a wonderful site where you can purchase a nice variety of fresh teas.

Glucosamine And Diabetes – Is It Safe?What Type Should You Take?

Glucosamine and diabetes is one of those things that many people search for on the Internet. The two basic inquiries are:

What is glucosamine?

How does it relate to diabetes?

The answer has varied a bit over time but newer research has shed some light on this somewhat elusive subject.

Basically, glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that is a combination of glucose and an amino group. The chemical composition can get a lot more complicated, however, just know that it is a combination of glucose and something else. The substance is found in your blood and joints.

WHAT DOES GLUCOSAMINE DO?

glucosamineGenerally, glucosamine is thought to help lessen osteoarthritis pain and slow the degeneration of your cartilage, possibly even help to build the cartilage back up.

Cartilage is part of the cushion between our joints. Lessening the pain or improving joint health is important. As we get older, the cartilage in our bones thins and our joints begin to stiffen and ache, even degenerate.

There are three different types:

  • Glucosamine Hydrochloride
  • Glucosamine Sulfate
  • N-acetyl Glucosamine

For the purposes of this article, the third type is not important. However, the difference between the first two is. Glucosamine is a very popular nutritional supplement. The supplement form can be made from seashells or through other lab processes.

The problem is that most studies now show that Glucosamine Hydrochloride probably does not help in joint health. However, Glucosamine Sulfate may help in relieving osteoarthritis pain and the maintenance of healthy joints. This is great news for all of us with creaky stiff joints.

THE GLUCOSAMINE AND DIABETES FEAR

The fear about glucosamine and diabetes is that since it is made from glucose, it could raise your blood sugar and/or affect your diabetes medications that lower your blood sugar. Early research supported this viewpoint.

However, more recent research concludes that there is probably not any affect on your blood sugar or impact on the effectiveness on diabetes medications. This is obviously good news for your sore joints.

There is one caveat. While researchers are quick to point out success, they do caution that you monitor your blood sugar levels closely. This sounds a lot like lawyers, not researchers!

There is also a product warning that if you take Warfarin (Coumadin), then glucosamine can increase the effectiveness of this medication. So, look out!

WHAT TO LOOK OUT IN NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT?

Here is where we have another problem. As noted above, Glucosamine Hydrochloride is not been found to be effective for joint health. However, many supplements on the market today actually use the Hydrochloride version.

Incredibly, sometimes the label simply states “Glucosamine” or it will state “Glucosamine Sulfate”. However, the substance used is actually Glucosamine Hydrochloride or it will be Glucosamine Hydrochloride and some sulfate additive. In any case, this is not what you want. So, make sure you use a supplement you trust.

Lastly, you may also see Glucosamine Sulfate and other additives, most commonly Chondroitin Sulfate. Chondroitin Sulfate is another substance that has been found to possibly reduce osteoarthritis pain.

NATURAL SOURCE

Glucosamine in its natural form is from the shells of various crustaceans like shrimp and lobster. You may get trace amounts of glucosamine if eat the meat of these foods. Some more hard core natural food advocates ground the shells of shrimp and add them to various recipes, such as soups.

Nonetheless, you will probably want to check with your doctor before going this route!

SOURCE:

Glucosamine Sulfate, Medline Plus, National Institute of Health (accessed July 2012).

Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Medline Plus, National Institute of Health (accessed July 2012)
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed February 2013.

Coenzyme Q10 And Diabetes

COQ10 pills

COQ10 pillsCoenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is a substance that garners a lot of attention, not just in relation to diabetes health. It is one of the most studied nutritional supplements and the list of benefits it is supposed to deliver is tremendous. This supplement should definitely make the list of things you want to talk to your doctor about on that next trip to see him or her.

So what exactly is it? A coenzyme is a substance that assists enzymes process food, perform bodily functions and protect the body. CoQ10 is an antioxidant and vitamin like compound that plays a critical role in how your body creates 95% of its energy. It is concentrated in the areas of your body that require the most energy, like your heart, kidneys and liver, but it is found throughout your body.

Interestingly enough, the substance was discovered in the 1950’s by researchers in Wisconsin studying cow hearts.

HEALTH CLAIM

So what are CoQ10’s claims to fame? Overall, it is thought that it supports health by fighting disease caused by oxidation in your cells. One of the reasons CoQ10 gets a lot of attention, as a supplement, is that levels of CoQ10 are thought to decline under the following circumstances:

  • As you Age
  • If you have a disease such as cancer, hear disease, diabetes, cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • As a side effect for certain prescriptions.

Another reason it gets a lot of attention is that there is a fairly extensive list of diseases that the substance may help combat:

  • Heart Disease
  • Heart Failure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Radiation Injury
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Some people even tout CcoQ10 as an anti aging supplement. Studies for all of these uses are mixed. Some are very encouraging, while others find no benefit. This seems to be the drill with almost all nutritional supplements.

Nonetheless, depending upon your circumstance it is probably worthwhile having a conversation with your doctor about it, particularly if you are at risk for heart disease. As you will see below, there are few know side effects from taking it.

DIABETES HEALTH

Let’s take a closer link at the link between CoQ10 and diabetes health. Obviously, if you have a complication from diabetes like heart disease, then you may want to consider supplementing with C0Q10.

There are also some newer studies that claim CoQ10 can help people lower their glucose levels. One 2012 Japanese study found that a reduced form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol helped stimulate insulin secretion and lower glucose levels in type 2 diabetics.

Over a 12 week period, the subjects were given their normal prescription diabetes medications and 200mg of ubiquinol. The result was that glucose levels were significantly reduced.

The challenge of course is that there are many studies that did not find a relationship. Moreover, this study was very small, looking at only 9 people with type 2 diabetes.

Another area where CoQ10 may be helpful is for treatment of diabetic neuropathy. One recent animal study found that the compound reduced diabetic neuropathy in rats.

DOSAGES

There is no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). There is also no upper limit dosage set for CoQ10, but at least one study stated that you should take no more than 1200mg per day.

However, some people taking as little as 100mg per day have reported mild insomnia. Other side effects that have been reported include: light sensitivity, heartburn, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, headache, and rashes.

There may be other side effects depending upon what other prescription medications you are taking. As always, if you plan on using nutritional supplements, check with your doctor.

SOURCE:

Coenzyme Q10 prevents peripheral neuropathy and attenuates neuron loss in the db-/db- mouse, a type 2 diabetes model, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 8;110(2):690-5. Epub 2012 Dec 24 (accessed May 2013).
The reduced form of coenzyme Q10 improves glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: an open label pilot study, Biofactors. 2012 Nov-Dec;38(6):416-21. Epub 2012 Aug 8. (accessed May 2013)
Risk assessment for coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone), Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Aug;45(3):282-8. Epub 2006 Jun 30 (accessed May 2013).
CoQ10: A Supplement Whose Time May Have Come (accessed May 2013)
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed April 2013.

Herbs For Diabetes – The Best Natural Treatments

herbs

diabetes and herbsSeparating fact and fiction when it comes to herbs for diabetes health is always tricky at best. Some people swear that herbs such as bitter melon, ginseng, fenugreek, cinnamon, bilberry, gymnema sylvestre and others are the best herbs for diabetes treatment. Others, particularly American scientists, are skeptical at best, hostile at worst.

Who’s right? Like all great controversies, the herbs for diabetes controversy depends on who you ask and what you believe. Personally, I think there is so much we don’t know about herbs and other natural treatments, it is difficult to rule them out, just because we haven’t studied them.

Moreover, the way the pharmaceutical industry is set up in the United States, there is very little incentive to study natural treatment. Anyway, now that I have gotten down off of my soap box, let’s take a look at what we do know.

BITTER MELON(AKA-AMPALAYA-MOMORDICA CHARANTIA LINN,BITTER GOURD)

Bitter Melon has risen to the front line of herb controversies. American studies have not found any evidence that bitter melon aids in controlling blood glucose levels. This, however, is no the entire picture.

A 10 year study conducted by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development found bitter melon to be extremely effective in controlling blood glucose levels. In fact, they even went as far as to classify bitter melon as a medicine. Meaning it was as effective in controlling glucose levels as some prescription medicines. Specifically, 100 milligrams per kilo (per day) is as effective as 2.5 milligrams of Glibenclamide, sold as Diabeta, Glynase and Micronase in the United States.

This result seems incredible given the lack of attention bitter melon and diabetes receives in the United States. Nonetheless, in at least this one corner of the world the herb is being used, and is supported, as a medicine. Is this another diabetes and herbs mystery or simply a lack of attention by western researchers?

GYMNEMA SYLYESTRE

This herb actually does have scientific support in the United States. At least two small human studies show that the herb helped reduce A1c levels, although, these findings are nothing new. The herb has been used for several thousand years as a treatment for diabetes. It is found naturally in tropical forests in India. The anti-diabetic healing properties of gymnema comes from its leaf extract.

FENUGREEK AND DIABETES

herbsFenugreek has only been found to reduce fasting blood glucose levels in one of three clinical trials (.333 average). While this is a pretty good hitting average if you are a Major League Baseball player, it does not overly impress scientists.

The one successful trial was conducted by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1990. The study actually reported a 54% reduction of urinary glucose levels within 24 hours. Curiously, these results do not seem to have been replicated in two follow up studies.

Nonetheless, Fenugreek seed extracts have been shown to have other positive qualities, such as lowering serum total cholesterol and triglycerides. Also, fenugreek is widely used a s a spice in cooking.

BILBERRY

Bilberry are essentially wild blueberries that most famously grow in Europe (although they can be found in other locations as well). The healing properties of bilberries most center on their ability to help a person’s eye sight. Human studies are few and far between, but preliminary non-human studies suggest the berry is good for treating macular degeneration (and preventing other eye diseases), cancer and heart disease.

Obviously, preventing or treating these diabetes complications is where the bilberry has become popular with diabetics.

GARLIC

Garlic has long been viewed as a healthy way to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A number of studies show that garlic may reduce hardening of the arteries, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. All of these attributes are positive for diabetes patients who also may have an increase in cardiovascular disease risk.

Additionally, garlic has been found to possibly lower glucose levels. However, the link between garlic and lower glucose levels is far from absolute. Most people do not have any adverse health reactions from taking garlic, but it may interact poorly with certain HIV medications. Garlic also can have the effect of thinning your blood, so be careful if you are going into an operation soon. There are no prescribed ideal amount of garlic in supplemental form.

OTHER RELATED HERBS FOR DIABETES TREATMENTS

There are several other diabetes and herbs used for treatments that have received a tremendous amount of research and/or discussion. We have actually covered them at length in other articles. These include the healing properties of Cinnamon and Green Tea.

For a complete list of diabetes and herbs and other natural treatments take a look at our Nutritional Supplements page.

SOURCES:

Ampalaya Tablets Out Soon for Diabetics, GMAnews.tv, March 27, 2007.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, , Nahas R, Moher M, Can Fam Physician, 2009 June; 55(6): 591-6.

By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed May 2012.

Alpha Lipoic Acid For Diabetes

alpha lipoic acid in spinachAlpha lipoic acid for diabetes (ALA) has become a very popular subject. But, what are the alpha lipoic acid dangers, benefits and research behind this miracle supplement? Moreover, what is the proper alpha lipoic acid dosage?

What is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

ALA is a fatty acid that is present in your cells. It is naturally occurring, meaning the body produces it on its own. The substance provides multiple functions, but is most commonly known for helping convert glucose into energy and as an antioxidant.

As you may recall, an antioxidant kills free radicals which attack cells. The unique aspect of ALA as an antioxidant is that it also replenishes or rejuvenates other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Additionally, the substance operates in both fat and water based environments. This last tidbit is important, as discussed below.

BENEFITS

ALA has many uses and benefits. Alpha lipoic acid for diabetes is mainly thought to help lower or maintain blood glucose levels. The substance effectively aids in the processing of glucose into energy at the cellular level.

ALA is one of the most powerful antioxidants in existence. Antioxidants both stop and repair cell damage caused by oxidation. Oxidation occurs as a natural process of living, however, poor diet and lifestyle habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) can increase oxidation. ALA combats this problem and has even been viewed as slowing down the anti-aging process.

ALA is also popular as a supplement for heart disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neuropathic diseases. As mentioned above, ALA is works in both fatty and water based tissue, effectively surrounding the cell and protecting it from free radical damage. This property is thought to be the main effectiveness for treating neuropathic issues.

RESEARCH

alpha-lipoic-acid
While not underwhelming, the alpha lipoic acid for diabetes research is not overwhelming either. For diabetes, there are multiple studies that support the substance as a glucose lowering aid. However, human studies are not prevalent and at least one of the studies requires you to exercise in order to reap the benefits. The same is true for studies related to its treatment for diabetic neuropathies. Treatment for diabetic neuropathy is thought to be improved with ALA.

There are a tremendous amount of ongoing studies to confirm the anti-aging and other neuropathic treatment qualities of ALA. While the research is not concluded, the positive takeaway from this activity is that the mainstream scientific community in the United States is focusing a tremendous amount of effort on the subject.

This last statement may seem trivial, but it is not. There are many so called “miracle treatments” for diabetes, but few are actively being studied or have been resoundingly debunked. The ALA story, however, is continuing to evolve.

DANGERS

The alpha lipoic dangers or side effects are also not well documented. Some reported side effects are:

  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Cramps

Additionally, ALA is often taken as a way to lower blood glucose levels. If someone is taking prescription medications to do this as well, you should closely monitor your blood sugar to make sure it does not get too low.

Because ALA is so popular, yet large human studies have not been performed, it is advisable that pregnant women and children be cautious about taking an ALA supplement. Regardless of your condition, it is best to consult with your doctor before starting to use ALA.

DOSAGE

Normal alpha lipoic acid for diabetes dosage is around 100mg to 200mg a day. However,

some studies have used upward to 600 mg a day or more. It is best to consult a doctor if you have any questions about what is right for you.

FOOD SOURCES

While ALA is naturally occurring, it is also found in certain foods, namely:

  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens
  • Chard
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Rice Bran
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Brewer’s Yeast

Omega 3 and Diabetes – A Miracle Supplement?

omega-3-symbolOmega-3 and diabetes has been getting a tremendous amount of attention lately, but this shouldn’t surprise you. Unless you’ve been living as a monk, you have heard of omega-3 and the amazing impact it can have on your health.

Anyone familiar with the New York Times bestselling authors Dr. Nicholas Perricone, Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Barry Sears know the value they (and many others) place on omega 3 for good health.

Scientists have also found is that omega 3 and diabetes health is very important.

Technically, omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that naturally occurs primarily in fish, fish oil, walnuts, wheat germ and vegetable oil (canola and soybean). Omega-3 is vital for multiple bodily processes, including the cellular transfer of calcium and other substances through cell membranes, muscle movement, blood clotting, digestion, fertility and cell growth.

There is a tremendous amount of focus on omega 3 as a protection against heart disease, inflammation reducer and lowering cholesterol. According to experts like Dr. Perricone, he takes the argument one further step and claims that the lack of omega 3 in one’s diet may be the cause for the rise in disorders such as obesity, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, depression and, yes, diabetes.

He quips that if we all just ate a can of sardines a day, we would age better and be more beautiful. The flip side would be that we could also better control our blood sugar levels.

WHAT DO THE SCIENTIST SAY ABOUT OMEGA-3?

So, what does the science say about omega-3 and diabetes? Ignoring any diabetes related studies, omega -3 has been shown to reduce cholesterol and reduce instances of cardiovascular disease in numerous studies.

There appears to be at least one tangential study where the effect of omega 3 on diabetics was discussed. The study was not specifically aimed at diabetics, meaning some of the people in the study had diabetes, but not all.

The study found that omega 3 had no affect on controlling blood glucose levels. However, both the Americans with Diabetes and American Heart Association advocate omega 3 for its health benefits.

Another study was done by a researcher at the University of Virginia. The issue studied was the rise in incidences of diabetes in Inuit populations. Traditionally, Inuits ate a diet high in fish, and correspondingly, omega 3.

As a more western diet has been introduced, the occurrences of diabetes have soared. The UVA study took a small group (44) of Inuits with early signs of diabetes. With a controlled diet of traditional food (high in fish, low in saturated fat), no one in the study developed diabetes after four years.

HEART HEALTH

omega-3-and-diabetesWhile the Omega-3 and Diabetes link may be less than clear, Omega-3 was always thought to be a “no-brainer” for improving heart health. As cardiovascular disease is a major concern for diabetics, omega 3 has always been thought to be a good choice for those seeking to reduce this complication.

In fact, the American Heart Association advices that people should eat at least two servings a week of fatty fish, e.g., salmon. A serving is about 3.5 ounces.

However, recently, in 2012, a large study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that omega 3 supplementation did not alter the risk of death in high risk cardiovascular patients over 50 years old.

Okay, so where do we stand now? Like most subjects in the medical field, the outcome is constantly evolving as new studies are done and more knowledge is gained. I would also note that there are many other studies that do show a positive impact of supplementing with Omega 3. While the benefit seems to be somewhat inconclusive, there doesn’t appear to be any harm to it.

Thus, talk to your doctor about his or her thoughts about getting started with this supplement. If you are taking other medications, it is important to know how each medication interacts with one another. Only your doctor can help you with this.

NATURAL WAYS TO GET OMEGA-3

Here is a partial list of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid:

  • Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
  • Salmon
  • Chia Seed
  • Caviar
  • Sardines
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Mackerel
  • Butternuts
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh Basil

Sources

Omega 3Fatty Acids and Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health (Accessed March 2009).
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Fish in Type 2 Diabetes, Joyce Nettleton, DSc RD, www.alaskaseafood.org (accessed March 2009).
Nature Bottled, Erika Gebel, Diabetes Forecast, February 2012.
The New EnglandJournal of Medicine, n–3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with Dysglycemia, N Engl J Med 2012; 367:309-318 (Accessed April 2013).
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed April 2013.