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December 3rd, 2010
08:28 AM ET

What are the best supplements for a diabetic?

Question asked by Michelle of Tallahassee, Florida:

My husband has adult-onset diabetes. He is 43, but was diagnosed about five years ago. His mother is diabetic as well. Both are very small-framed people who are not overweight nor very muscular. There is no doubt the disease is genetic for them.

My husband takes Glucovance to help control his blood sugar. He also strives to stay physically active despite a sedentary desk job. What advice can you offer for type 2 diabetics who struggle to maintain their weight?

Are there supplements that he would benefit from? He does his best to emphasize protein and fruits/veggies in his diet, but carbs are still a weakness. Seems like all advice is geared toward obese diabetics or insulin-dependent type 1.

Expert answer

Hi Michelle. This is an excellent question, as maintaining weight is very important to controlling blood sugar and decreasing risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in diabetics. Staying physically active is critical, particularly with a sedentary desk job, and it is essential to incorporate aerobic exercise and resistance training.

A study released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the combination of both types of exercise was the best way to lower hemoglobin A1c levels, a marker of long-term blood sugar control. In addition, combining aerobics and strength training helped reduce fat mass and waist circumference, a measure of harmful belly fat, which can increase risk of heart disease.

Take this test to see how you're managing your diabetes

Since you mention that your husband is not very muscular, adding in strength training is especially important for controlling blood sugar and maintaining weight, as muscle burns more calories than fat and helps improve blood sugar control and decrease insulin resistance.

There are no supplements that would help significantly with weight control, but I do recommend that most of my patients take a multivitamin, fish oil and vitamin D supplement for optimal health. There are some studies that suggest that chromium may help with blood sugar control in some diabetics, but it does not appear to help with weight control. If your husband's blood sugar is not well controlled, he may want to discuss trying this supplement with his physician.

How alcohol can affect your diabetes

Finally, lowering the glycemic index of your husband's diet may help with weight control by improving blood sugar control, controlling hunger and possibly improving metabolism.

The glycemic index is a measure of how a food increases blood sugar. High glycemic foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, making it more difficult to control blood sugar and requiring more insulin, which may lead to worsening of diabetes and weight gain. Low glycemic carbohydrates are generally less processed, lower in sugar and higher in fiber. For more information about the glycemic index, visit the American Diabetes Association website or http://www.glycemicindex.com/.

In general, eating mainly lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy, small portions of healthy fat, whole grains in moderate portions and lots of fruits and vegetables will ensure a low glycemic diet.


Filed under: Diabetes • Expert Q&A • Vitamins and supplements

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Debbie

    Type II diabetes (adult onset) is growing at epidemic rates in this country, and despite what many think it doesn't affect only over weight & obese people. I have been coaching people on a program that is fantastic for people who have Type II diabetes. It addresses low glycemic eating, exercise, supplementation, and why all 3 components are important. The program can help those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low energy, weight issues, overall health concerns. I have known people to reverse their Type II diabetes. If you would like more information about this program feel free to contact me at debmich9@yahoo.com

    December 3, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Fawn

    Just to clarify on Debbie's comment. Type 2 diabetes doesn't go away. Once you have it, you need to maintain good glucose control for life. You can minimize chances at future complications as well as immediate problems with blood glucose control but your diabetes never goes away. The only known exception to this is gestational diabetes. Sadly, having gestational diabetes (developing a temporary form of type 2 during pregnancy) make a woman more at risk for developing type 2 down the road. Also worth noting, many diabetics find the best way to determine what carbs can and cannot work for them by eating to the meters. This means testing blood sugar before eating a meal or snack and evaluating it afterwards as well (usually at a 2 hr mark from the time a person begins eating). Readings consistently higher than 140 at the 2 hr mark suggest the food is problematic and the food should either be removed from a person's diet, serving size reduced, or combined with fat to minimize a blood sugar spike. There are people who are able to control their type 2 effectively with diet and exercise but sometimes medications are needed.

    December 3, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. John W McKee

    I AM A VETERAN OF THE KOREAN WAR AND HAVE FROST BITTEN TOES/FEET. I HAVE EXCRUITING PAIN. THE VA HAS
    ISSUED ME A REGENESIS BIOMEDICAL PROVANT THERAPPY SYSTEM TO USE. I HAVE USED THE MACHINE EVERY 12 HOURS FOR 17 DAYS. IT IS SUPPOSED TO SEND MICROWAVE WAVES THROUGH MY FEET. I USE IT FOR THIRTY MINUTES
    EVERY 12 HOURS. IT STOPS THE PAIN FOR ABOUT FIVE HOURS THEN THE PAIN COMES BACK AGAIN. I NEED HELP. THE
    PAIN IS SO GREAT I AM WILLING TO HAVE MY FEET/TOES CUT OFF. I LIVE IN ST. CROIX AND SINCE I AM BLIND MY WIFE
    HAS TO FLY WITH ME TO SAN JUAN VA FOR TREATMENT. I AM ALSO TREATED FOR PTSD IN SAN JUAN WHICH HAS
    HELPED ME GREATLY. MY PROBLEM IS MY FEET WHICH I AM NOT GETTING ANY RESULTS AND THE PAIN IS SO VERY
    GREAT. I AM NOW ASKING FOR SOME SUGGESTIONS/ACTIONS FROM YOU. MY WIFE IS WRITING THIS AND I LOOK
    FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU WITH SOME ANSWERS.
    THANK YOU
    JOHN

    December 4, 2010 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. razzlea

    Check out my health and fitness blog http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 6, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply

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