Diabetes and supplements: What to know
People may take supplements to reduce blood sugar levels and reduce risks for other diabetes complications. But, you may not benefit from supplements if you do not have a diagnosed vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Are supplements beneficial?
Eating a balanced diet may provide you with the vitamin and mineral intake you need. But, if you have a diagnosed deficiency, you may consider taking supplements to support your diabetes treatment.
Without a diagnosed vitamin deficiency, the 2023 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes report states that there’s insufficient evidence that dietary supplements, herbs, and spices can help manage blood sugar levels.
Supplements cannot replace medical treatment for diabetes, and you should discuss with your doctor whether supplements may be of benefit.
The following supplements show potential for helping manage blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes complications:
Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that may help control and reduce blood sugar levels.
It may also have other benefits, including:
- improvement of neuropathic symptoms, such as nerve pain
- improved vision
- reduction of oxidative stress
But, you should take alpha-lipoic acid with caution as there is a rare risk of reducing blood sugar to dangerous levels. More research is necessary to confirm the effects of alpha-lipoic acid on diabetes.
A 2019 meta-analysis found that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar levels between meals or while you are fasting — particularly in people with type 2 diabetes. But, there was no change in A1C or blood lipid levels.
There isn’t clear or sufficient evidence on the benefits of cinnamon supplementation in people with diabetes.
You should not use cinnamon to replace your medications without consulting your doctor if you have diabetes or other health conditions.
A 2019 meta-analysis of studies involving humans, mice, and rats suggests that green tea extracts have numerous beneficial and health-boosting properties as it contains antioxidants called polyphenols.
Green tea’s beneficial health properties include:
- reduction of oxidative stress
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- reduced risk of eye disease
- reduced risk of inflammation
- possible diabetes prevention in those without a diabetes diagnosis
But, a 5-year 2023 study of 2,337 participants found that tea and green tea worsen insulin secretion and glucose tolerance in high risk people with diabetes.
Overall, more research is necessary to confirm the effects of green tea on diabetes.
Magnesium is an essential mineral found in many food types. Eating a magnesium-rich diet may benefit health. These foods include:
- pumpkin seeds
- brown rice
- chicken breast
A 2021 study suggests that magnesium supplements can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and increase insulin sensitivity in people at risk.
But, high magnesium levels may cause adverse effects such as nausea and diarrhea, so speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any magnesium supplements.
Free prescription coupons
Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.Get free card
Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamine. People with diabetes can be mildly deficient in thiamine, although it is most prevalent in people with alcohol use disorder or after weight loss or metabolic surgery.
A 2018 review suggests that taking thiamine supplements, called benfotiamine, may prevent diabetes complications, and a 2020 study involving rodents also found benfotiamine may prevent damage to the heart’s muscle tissue.
Further research is necessary to confirm the potential of benfotiamine in preventing diabetes complications.
A small 2020 study found that bitter melon may help reduce fasting blood sugar levels but no improvement was seen in A1C levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Due to the study’s small size, more research is necessary to confirm the efficacy of bitter melon in helping with diabetes management.
More research may confirm chromium’s effectiveness in managing diabetes. However, a 2020 study found that chromium supplements may help reduce blood sugar levels during fasting in people with diabetes.
What vitamins should people with diabetes avoid?
People with diabetes should avoid taking vitamin B3 supplements.
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, raises fasting blood sugar levels and may interfere with drugs for blood sugar management.
If you want to start taking vitamin B3 supplements, you should speak with your doctor or healthcare professional, as they can help determine if they are safe for you.
Can vitamin D lower blood sugar?
A 2019 review of 19 studies found that vitamin D may help blood sugar management in people with diabetes.
The same review found that a short-term vitamin D supplement intake can lower blood sugars and improve insulin resistance. Vitamin D supplements can work alongside other diabetes treatments to improve their efficacy.
But, researchers did not find any significant differences in the long-term management of diabetes between people who were taking vitamin D supplements and those who were not.
Can diabetes be fixed naturally?
It may be possible for type 2 diabetes to go into remission through weight management and following a balanced diet.
Managing weight and being active may help reduce blood sugar levels, lower the risk of diabetes complications, and reduce the need for medications. You can speak with a dietician specializing in diabetes care to help manage your nutritional needs.
But, this may not work for everyone. It is important to keep your healthcare team informed of any changes you may want to make. They can confirm if your plans are suitable for your current health condition.
You should not stop taking your current medications without consulting your doctor or healthcare professional.
Researchers suggest that certain supplements may help to manage and prevent diabetes. But, these may not always prove beneficial. In some cases, you may experience some side effects, such as diarrhea and nausea. Additionally, the American Diabetes Association states there is not enough evidence to support that routine supplement intake helps manage diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you should not replace your medications with supplements.
Weight management and following a balanced diet can help to manage blood sugar. These lifestyle adaptations may help reduce the need for medications in those with type 2 diabetes.
It is best to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking new supplements, as they may interfere with your diabetes treatment plan.
- Ahmed LA, et al. (2020). Beneficial effects of benfotiamine, a NADPH oxidase inhibitor, in isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction in rats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7209119/
- Akbari M, et al. (2018). The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on glucose control and lipid profiles among patients with metabolic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. https://www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(18)30153-7/fulltext
- All about your A1C. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/managing-blood-sugar/a1c.html
- Altunina N, et al. (2022). Effects of alpha-lipoic acid on glycemic status in 2 type diabetes patients with сhronic coronary syndrome. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36723330/
- Anwar A, et al. (2020). Thiamine level in type I and type II diabetes mellitus patients: A comparative study focusing on hematological and biochemical evaluations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282352/
- Asbaghi O, et al. (2020). Effects of chromium supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043661820314067
- Chromium. (2022). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/#h3
- Cinnamon. (2020). https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cinnamon
- Deyno S, et al. (2019). Efficacy and safety of cinnamon in type 2 diabetes mellitus and pre-diabetes patients: A meta-analysis and meta-regression. https://www.diabetesresearchclinicalpractice.com/article/S0168-8227(19)30706-5/fulltext
- Diabetes and dietary supplements. (2018). https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes-and-dietary-supplements
- ElSayed NA, et al. (2022). 5. Facilitating positive health behaviors and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of Care in Diabetes—2023. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/46/Supplement_1/S68/148055/5-Facilitating-Positive-Health-Behaviors-and-Well?searchresult=1
- Eshak ES, et al. (2018). Thiamine deficiency and cardiovascular disorders. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30143411/
- Helali J, et al. (2019). Thiamine and heart failure. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6543258/
- Hu Z, et al. (2019). Efficacy of vitamin D supplementation on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6456062/
- Kim SY, et al. (2020). Hypoglycemic efficacy and safety of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229920302491
- Magnesium. (2022). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional
- Meng JM, et al. (2019). Effects and mechanisms of tea for the prevention and management of diabetes mellitus and diabetic complications: An updated review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6617012/
- Nguyen H, et al. (2022). Alpha-lipoic acid. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK564301/
- Pizzino G, et al. (2017). Oxidative stress: Harms and benefits for human health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/
- Raj V, et al. (2018). Therapeutic potential of benfotiamine and its molecular targets. https://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/3261-3273.pdf
- Reversing type 2 diabetes. (n.d.). https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/type-2-reverse
- Shanghai High-risk Diabetic Screen (SHiDS) study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10030497/
- Veronese N, et al. (2021). Oral magnesium supplementation for treating glucose metabolism parameters in people with or at risk of diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8619199/
- Vitamins & diabetes. (n.d.). https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/vitamins-diabetes
- Zhang Y, et al. (2023). Association between tea consumption and glucose metabolism and insulin secretion in the Shanghai High-risk Diabetic Screen (SHiDS) study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10030497/