|Worthless or Dangerous Supplements|
Because you can make such a difference in your blood sugar just by cutting down on carbohydrates, its easy to think that there must be some other foods and supplements you could take which would have an equally powerful effect on your health and which might even be powerful enough to let you work that fudge sundae back into your food plan.
Sadly, such foods and supplements don't exist. What does exist is a huge industry looking to make money off you and other people with chronic diseases, an industry that profits from selling you worthless remedies at highly inflated prices. Many of them advertise on Google Ads.
If you're newly diagnosed, it's guaranteed that you are going to shell out for some of them. You're only human! But before you head down to the health food store and drain your bank account, consider the following:
Why You Need to Be Suspicious of Dietary Research Boosting Specific FoodsThough you may see a lot of media reports for one or other food or supplement that supposedly prevents diabetes or cures it, these reports are almost always based research funded by the companies who sell the food or supplement at obscene markups. Careful scrutiny of this "research" almost always reveals serious flaws.
Medical research is expensive, particularly research involving a lot of subjects and expensive lab tests. So virtually all studies that claim health benefits for a food products is funded by the companies that will benefits if the public buys more of that food.
The studies that claim health benefits for soy are funded by huge agricultural conglomerates who grow soybeans. They were happy to develop a market that would pay a premium to buy up their excess beans and use them for expensive health food.
These industry groups pay for media blitzes when the research they buy makes their product look good. When poorly funded academic researchers do better studies that cast doubt on he manufacturers' results, they never make it into the press.
for example, while you may read may articles explaining that studies found soy can help women with menopausal symptoms, you won't learn that these studies were paid for and run by companies selling soy products. Even worse, the same magazines don't tell you about the research that found that those same soy products can be toxic to the thyroid glands of those menopausal women. That's because the manufacturers are often advertisers in the media outlets that publish this "news" and even when they aren't, the media never seem to do any investigative research before publishing press releases describing medical studies.
Dangerous Unregulated Supplements Often Contain Hidden Drugs and Toxins--Or Lawn ClippingsThere's one other huge problem with supplements in the United States. In the 1980s Congress, paying back lobbying groups and, in particular, one large supplement manufacturer's campaign contributions to a powerful senator, forbade the FDA from regulating supplements. As a result, there is no oversight over what might be in that expensive bottle you buy at the health food store.
What random checks have found is that the products often contain a lot less of whatever it is they are supposed to contain than what is listed on the label, In other cases the bottle may contain other, unlisted, substances which may be harmful to you.
To cite only one example, in 2011, a large "well respected" Utah supplement company marketed a product, Zotrex supposedly containing an natural herb, Ophioglossum polyphyllous, it claimed could enhance potency. What the pills actually contained was sulfoaildenafil, a drug analog of Viagra that has never been tested in humans. Quite a few drug analogs of safe drugs, are toxic for humans, for example, phenformin, which is a close relative to the very safe, well-tested drug metformin.
In another case, a supposedly "herbal" diabetes supplement, when taken to the lab turned out to contain a cheap first generation sulfonyurea drug--one that can cause dangerous hypos and, which is also now known to act on the heart in a way that promotes heart attack.
The 1994 law stipulated that supplement makers were supposed to submit safty data to the FDA for any new ingredient they introduced that wasn't on sale prior to 1994. But the New England Journal of Medicine reported in January of 2012 (HERE) that since 1994,
..the number of available dietary supplements has skyrocketed from an estimated 4000 to more than 55,000...but the FDA has received adequate notification for only 170 new supplement ingredients since 1994 — undoubtedly a small fraction of the ingredients for which safety data should have been submitted.In February 2015, The Washington Post (owned by the same Jeff Bezos whose company, Amazon, sells thousands of supplements) reported on what happened when the New York State Attorney General sent store-bought herbal supplements purchased at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and GNC to the lab. As the paper explains,
The tests were conducted using a process called DNA barcoding, which identifies individual ingredients through a kind of “genetic fingerprinting.” The investigators tested 24 products claiming to be seven different types of herb — echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and valerian root. All but five of the products contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant other than what the product claimed to be. You can read the entire article HERE.
Additionally, five of the 24 contained wheat and two contained beans without identifying them on the labels — both substances are known to cause allergic reactions.
In February 2015, The Washington Post (owned by the same Jeff Bezos whose company, Amazon, sells thousands of supplements) reported on what happened when the New York State Attorney General sent store-bought herbal supplements purchased at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and GNC to the lab. As the paper explains,
The tests were conducted using a process called DNA barcoding, which identifies individual ingredients through a kind of “genetic fingerprinting.” The investigators tested 24 products claiming to be seven different types of herb — echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and valerian root. All but five of the products contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant other than what the product claimed to be.
Additionally, five of the 24 contained wheat and two contained beans without identifying them on the labels — both substances are known to cause allergic reactions.
You can read the entire article HERE.
Any time there is any attempt to reintroduce even the feeblest oversight into the marketing of bottles that can contain literally anything, the supplement companies send paid minions out who post all over the web about how big gumint's trying to take away your freedom. People deluge their congresspeople with complaints, and the supplement companies go back to earning billions selling you whatever they feel like putting into their magic pills this month.
This makes it very difficult to know if a supplement you have bought simply doesn't work for you, or whether you didn't get the supplement you paid for. If the supplement does work, it may be because it contained an untested, potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drug whose long term effects won't show up for several years.
Beware of Industry-Funded Shills Promoting Supplements on Discussion GroupsSupplement companies often market their supplements by paying people to blog or participate in discussion groups pretending to be ordinary folks who just happen to have experienced wonderful results with the company's expensive supplements. It may take some close observation to determine which frequent contributors to a discussion are paid shills. But the tip offs are these:
- Shills introduce comments about their wonderful supplement into every discussion they participate in.
- Shills rarely add to any discussion except to cite the benefits of their supplements.
- Shills either completely ignore it when other people respond to their praise of the supplement by saying that the supplement did nothing for them or they attempt--sometimes in subtle ways--to destroy the credibility of the person questioning the supplement's value.
- People who question the value of supplements disappear from discussion boards or blogs owned by people who profit from supplement sales. Diet and health discussion boards and blogs are often funded by companies that sell questionable supplements. Especially in the discussion group format, board owners may ban people who question the safety or usefulness of their supplements. If you notice that hitherto reasonable sounding people suddenly disappear from a discussion board, it may be because the board is owned by a shilling entity.
- The blogs linked to banner ads that claiming some real person had success with a supplement or weight loss aid are all fake. Because the companies putting up these fake blogs change their URLS every day (though not their content) it is impossible to block their ads using the tools given to blog and site owners, so you will see them all over the web, including on many legitimate sites like this one.
The best rule of thumb to follow is this: Never buy any supplement, diabetes "cure" or weight loss aid sold via blog testimonials or claims that the product was "seen on TV".
With these caveats in mind, lets look at some of the foods and supplements that have been proven to be worthless or harmful for people with diabetes.
CinnamonThe idea that cinnamon might have an effect in lowering blood sugar was first demonstrated in the lab by researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center of the FDA in Beltsville Mary land, in 1990, while they were testing foods for an insulin-enhancing effect as part of a series of studies looking into the effect of dietary chromium on blood sugar.
However, cinnamon was only one of several foods described as having such an effect including peanut butter and tuna fish, and the article reporting these results was published in an obscure journal so it pretty much sank without a trace.
Insulin potentiating factor and chromium content of selected foods and spices. Khan A, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990 Mar;24(3):183-8
Dr. Anderson went on to run a series of experiments on cinnamon and cinnamon-related compounds in Pakistan. He also patented a form of cinnamon extract. Media coverage of some of his studies led to a burst of expensive cinnamon supplements appearing in drug and health food stores. However, most people who have tried them have not found lasting benefit.
In a May 2007 newsletter, the editor of the PRESENT Diabetes points out that the small studies that found a favorable effect from cinnamon only measured fasting blood sugar. He also cites a more recent study, whose title says it all:
Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients. Vanschoonbeek K et al., J Nutr. 2006 Apr;136(4):977-80.
This study included glucose tolerance tests in its assessment of the efficacy of cinnamon.
Yet another study, not done by someone with a financial stake in cinnamon as a diabetes treatment reinforces this finding. Cinnamon doesn't improve FBG, A1c or lipids.
The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose Control and Lipid Parameters William L Baker, et al.Diabetes Care DOI: 10.2337/dc07-1711
In yet another study, researchers at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City randomly assigned type 2 diabetics to take either cinnamon capsules or a placebo every day for three months. The cinnamon group took two capsules a day, each of which contained 500 milligrams of the spice. The placebo group took capsules containing wheat flour.
According to the researchers, led by Dr. Steve M. Blevins, the results of the study showed that there were no differences in the groups' average levels of blood sugar, insulin or cholesterol.
Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose and Lipid Levels in Non-Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes Steve M. Blevins, et al. Diabetes Care DOI: 10.2337/dc07-0098
Cinnamon looks to be another over-hyped and underperforming supplement. But it is one you can test at home safely and cheaply since Dr. Anderson's research, no matter how questionable, was done with plain cinnamon of the type you buy at the grocery store, rather than the expensive patented pure product.
Keep your dose to 1 tsp a day or less and repeat the Meal Tolerance Test two weeks after you start using it. If you have high blood pressure be sure to monitor your blood pressure as some people have found that large doses of cinnamon raise blood pressure.
ChromiumA series of small studies also conducted by the same researcher as did the cinnamon studies, the USDA's Richard A. Anderson, spurred a flurry of excitement after Dr. Anderson reported that chromium supplementation could significantly improve glucose tolerance.
Studies conducted by Dr. Anderson and his team and other researchers around the world seemed to show that adding chromium to the diets of people with diabetes in India and China lowered their blood sugar significantly.
Follow up studies done in European and American populations did not show chromium having any such effect.
In his review of the chromium studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, published in 1998, Anderson argued that to be effective the doses of chromium given should be Chromium picolinate rather than less active chromium chloride, and that the minimum dose must be at least 400 micrograms and up to 1,000 mc. This dose, he said could reduce insulin resistance in people with impaired glucose tolerance and lower the blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes.
Anderson explained that the mechanism behind this improvement was that chromium supplementation increased the number of insulin receptors in cells.
Chromium, Glucose Intolerance and Diabetes. Anderson, RA Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 17, No. 6, 548-555 (1998)]
However, despite Anderson's enthusiasm for chromium ( his name was on many of the relevant research papers) none of these studies was particularly impressive. All were small. None of them involved more than 85 people and few involved more than 30.
When the media picked up on this and related research in 1998 and publicized it in a way that suggested that chromium supplementation by reducing insulin resistance could also improve the speed of weight loss for dieters, sales of chromium picolinate skyrocketed.
But few dieters found the supplement to be all that effective, and a subsequent review of the research by NIH statisticians, M.D. Althuis and N.E. Jordan concluded that chromium supplementation had no effect on glucose or insulin levels in non-diabetic people and that the evidence for an effect on people with diabetes was inconclusive.
Some researchers speculated that the results seen in the Chinese and Indian studies might have been due to these particular populations subsisting on diets that were in fact deficient in chromium, while the diet of most well-fed westerners supplies more than enough chromium.
Glucose and insulin responses to dietary chromium supplements: a meta-analysis. Althuis MD; Jordan NE; Ludington EA; Wittes JT. Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Jul;76(1):148-55
Chromium's role as a supplement was dealt a death blow by a study that suggested that chromium picolinate caused mutations of the type that lead to cancer in hamsters.
Chromium(III) tris(picolinate) is mutagenic at the hypoxanthine (guanine) phosphoribosyltransferase locus in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Stearns DM, Silveira SM, Wolf KK, et al.Mutat Res Jan 15 2002, 513(1-2) p135-42
More recent research has called this result into question and the current belief is that small amounts of the supplement probably are safe.
If you want to test chromium you can buy inexpensive chromium picolinate at the drug store. Try one package and if you don't see a significant change, you'll know it isn't worth investing in.
The safest approach to chromium supplementation is to ensure that you get enough of it in foods. Foods rich in chromium that won't raise your blood sugar include seafood, green beans, broccoli, nuts, and peanut butter, all of which contain other helpful micronutrients. Supplementing with vitamin C may increase the absorption of dietary chromium.
AntioxidantsMany small scale studies have shown that the antioxidant vitamins C and E may have some effect in preventing heart disease. However, a large scale study conducted in England where half of 20,536 people considered high risk for heart disease took vitamin C,E, and beta-carotene supplements and half didn't, has cast a great deal of doubt on this.
Despite the fact that those in the supplemented group had measurably higher levels of the supplemented vitamins, the researchers found no difference at all in the rates of heart attack, other signs of cardiovascular disease, cancer or, indeed, hospitalization for any other cause.
MRC/BHF Heart Protection Study of antioxidant vitamin supplementation in 20,536 high-risk individuals: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet, Jul 6 2002, 360(9326) p23-33
A February 2007 study, in contrast, found that antioxidant supplements actually seemed to raise the risk of death in those who took them.
Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. JAMA. 2007 Feb 28;297(8):842-57.
Yet another blow was dealt to the idea that antioxidants were helpful by the results of the Physicians Health Study II published in 2008. In this double blind, placebo controlled study of 14,641 male physicians taking Vitamin C or E or a placebo that lasted a decade, the conclusion was, " neither vitamin E nor vitamin C supplementation reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events." Not only that, but "...vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke."
Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men. The Physicians' Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial. Howard D. Sesso et al. JAMA 2008;300(18):2123-2133
However, there was some hope that supplementing with these vitamins might be of some use specifically in people with diabetes after studies showed that the beta cell was uniquely vulnerable to oxidative stress because it is poor in the production of antioxidant substances.
A paper published in 2000 that analyzed results of the large scale EPIC-Norfolk study seemed to suggest this was true. It found that the higher the plasma vitamin C level in the 6,458 people they studied, the lower their A1c seemed to be.
Vitamin C and hyperglycemia in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer--Norfolk (EPIC-Norfolk) study: a population-based study. Sargeant LA, Wareham NJ, Bingham S, et al. Diabetes Care , Jun 2000, 23(6) p726-32
But the question was whether the high level of vitamin C actually caused the lower blood sugar levels, or whether its presence was a marker for something else--for example a diet low in junk food. A further analysis of EPIC Norfolk data published in 2004--after the early results were in suggesting he ineffectiveness of vitamin supplementation against heart disease, pointed to the latter explanation. The study title says it all:
Occupational social class, educational level and area deprivation independently predict plasma ascorbic acid concentration: a cross-sectional population based study in the Norfolk cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC-Norfolk) Shohaimi S, Bingham S, Welch A, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr, Mar 31 2004, e-pub.
A rodent study conducted by Tony Tiganis and published in Cell Metabolism in October of 2009 [full text available online as of Oct 25, 2009] found that high doses of antioxidants may interfere with cellular processes in a way that increases insulin resistance.
Reactive Oxygen Species Enhance Insulin Sensitivity" Kim Loh et al. Cell Metabolism,Volume 10, Issue 4, 260-272, 7 October 2009, doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2009.08.009
To read a description of this study in layman's terms view:
Reuters: Antioxidants may increase diabetes risk
Vitamin E Appears Helpful in The Presence of a Certain GeneA team in Israel discovered that people with one particular gene, the haptoglobin (Hp) 2-2 gene who took 400 iu of Vitamin E, had 40% less heart attacks over an 18 month period than those who did not.
Vitamin E Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Events in a Subgroup of Middle-Aged Individuals With Both Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and the Haptoglobin 2-2 Genotype: A Prospective Double-Blinded Clinical Trial. Uzi Milman et al. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2008;28:341.
Note that in his book, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution, Dr. Bernstein
warns against taking doses of vitamin C greater than 500 mg a day, explaining that they can cause erroneous blood sugar readings with some meters. He also says that very high levels of vitamin C can raise blood sugar and impair nerve function. He writes that vitamin E in doses between 400 to 1,200 IU per day may lower insulin resistance, but suggests you use gamma tocopherol or mixed tocopherols, not the common alpha tocopherol, which he says can inhibit the absorption of gamma tocopherol from food.
Because of the poor results found in so many large-scale studies, it seems clear that the safest way to supplement with these antioxidant vitamins is to get them by consume foods that are rich in the natural forms of these substances. When you get your nutrients from food, you get them in quantities that your body is adapted to using. You also get them in combination with other nutrients that may work synergistically with them.
The idea that food cannot supply the nutrients you need is one that has been promoted very heavily by the purveyors of expensive supplements. It is not supported by any high quality research.
Nuts and sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. If you are controlling your carbohydrate intake, you can still get adequate amounts of vitamin C from green vegetables and low carbohydrate fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
UPDATE: More Bad News About VitaminsYou can read an excellent summary of the state of vitamin research at the end of 2008 here: New York Times 11/20/08: News Keeps Getting Worse for Vitamins. From that article:
In October, a major trial studying whether vitamin E and selenium could lower a man's risk for prostate cancer ended amidst worries that the treatments may do more harm than good.
And recently, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York warned that vitamin C seems to protect not just healthy cells but cancer cells, too.
B Vitamin Supplementation Increases Stroke and Kidney DamageA study published in JAMA in April 2010 asked whether giving supplemental B vitamins to people with diabetes would improve their kidneys because they were known to have low levels of homocysteine. What the study found was very disturbing: people with diabetes who were given a single daily tablet of B vitamins containing folic acid (2.5 mg/d), vitamin B6 (25 mg/d), and vitamin B12 (1 mg/d) ended up with significantly worse kidney function as measured by GFR and also in a higher incidence of stroke. This suggests B Vitamin supplementation is harmful to people with kidney problems.
Effect of B-Vitamin Therapy on Progression of Diabetic Nephropathy. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Andrew A. House et al. JAMA Vol. 303 No. 16, April 28, 2010.
MagnesiumAn analysis of data from the Nurses health Study suggests that increased intake of dietary magnesium corresponded with a reduced risk of diabetes. This result was echoed by a similar finding analyzing data from another study, the Women's Health Study.
Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. Lopez-Ridaura R, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Liu S, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Hu FB Diabetes Care 27:134-140, 2003
Song Y, Manson ME, Buring JE, Liu S: Dietary magnesium intake in relation to plasma insulin levels and risk of type 2 diabetes in women.Diabetes Care 27:59-65, 2003.
Adequate blood levels of magnesium have also been found to counter high blood pressure.
However, it is not clear whether here the high blood magnesium levels are preventing blood sugar deterioration or are a marker that a person does not have the underlying conditions that cause diabetes.
A new concern about dietary minerals, including magnesium, is the finding published in Jan of 2008 that calcium supplementation appears to increase heart attacks in older women.
Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomised controlled trialMark J Bolland, P Alan Barber, Robert N Doughty, associate professor1, Barbara Mason, Anne Horne, Ruth Ames, Gregory D Gamble, Andrew Grey, Ian R Reid.BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.39440.525752.BE (published 15 January 2008).
Dr. Davis of The Heart Scan Blog argues that Vitamin D and K are essential for calcium to be deposited in bone rather than in arteries. Since magnesium levels are closely related to calcium levels, manipulating magnesium levels may cause calcium to be deposited on the arteries. So it may be a mistake to supplement these minerals with pills.
Get your magnesium from the nuts and leafy green vegetables you should be eating for all the other good things they contain. The Vitamin K in the leafy greens will direct the magnesium and calcium to where they are supposed to go. Plentiful amounts of magnesium are found in premium chocolates with high cocoa content. Again, it is highly unlikely verging on the absurd that your body has evolved to require quantities of minerals greater than what you can get from food.
FructoseYou may read in books written for diabetics that fructose is preferable to other sugars for people with diabetes because it doesn't raise insulin or blood sugar. Fructose, like glucose, is a form of simple sugar, the one which is found in fruits. For this reason it has been promoted as being "natural" and "healthy." However the fructose you find listed in the ingredient panel of supermarket foods does not come from fruit. It is extracted from corn and it is anything but good for you.
This is because while it is true that fructose may not raise your blood glucose concentration and hence is not detectable by your blood glucose meter, it does raise the levels of fructose and once fructose gets into your bloodstream it makes a beeline for the liver where it is immediately turned into fat. Not only that, but this fructose in your liver also increases insulin resistance and decreases leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and body fat levels.
The reason that our bodies respond this way to fructose may go back to our evolutionary primate heritage. Fruits are relatively rare in nature and for an animal who is struggling to put on a bit of fat to get through tough times the discovery of a small store of seasonal fruit is a dietary bonanza. So it makes sense to quickly store it as fat for tough times ahead. It is only when our bodies start encountering this "fruit" sugar in large quantities every day--with no famine periods in which to burn it off--that fructose becomes a problem.
The average consumption of fructose by Americans rose from 64 grams per day in 1970 to 81 grams per day in 1997--a rise of 26%--and that's just the average. Anyone who starts their day with glass of orange juice and some high fructose corn syrup sweetened cereal and then has a soda with a lunch and dinner that includes some canned soup or bottled spaghetti sauce, both of which sweetened with surprising amounts of high fructose corn syrup, and polishes off that meal with a scoop of ice cream or a couple cookies sweetened with high fructose corn syrup is taking in a lot more fructose than that 81 gram average.
There is an accumulating body of research which suggests that because of fructose's ability to deregulate appetite and lead to increased fat storage, the huge increase of fructose in the American diet over the past couple decades may be one reason for the increase of obesity within the U.S population.
Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome. Sharon S. Elliott et al., Am J Clin Nutr, Vol 76 No. 5 911-922, 2002.
If that isn't enough to put you off fructose, consider this: fructose causes far more glycation of proteins than does glucose. Glycation refers to the dangerous bonding of sugar molecules to proteins that clogs up your circulatory system and kidneys.
Experimental studies on the role of fructose in the development of diabetic complications. Sakai M, Oimomi M, Kasuga M. Kobe J Med Sci , Dec 2002, 48(5-6) p125-36
Unfortunately, you aren't going to see any of this discussed in the media any time soon. Food manufacturers love high fructose corn syrup because it is cheaper than other sugars. Since a few large food companies are responsible for buying a large percentage of all media advertising, you won't be hearing much from the media companies they support about this major ingredient in their foods.
In 2008, after information about the bad effects of high fructose corn syrup became known to people in the Web diet and nutrition community, the corn syrup industry spearheaded a campaign complete with viral videos to convince people that high fructose corn syrup was good for them. It isn't.
Selenium may Raise Diabetes RiskSelenium is a mineral which had been found in some small experiments to appear to lower blood sugar. However, a study published in July of 2007, which attempted to see whether long term supplementation with selenium would prevent Type 2 diabetes discovered that it appeared to do just the opposite. The group taking the selenium supplements developed more diabetes. Not only that, but the more selenium they had in their blood plasma, the more likely they were to develop diabetes. Strike selenium off your list of supplements for diabetes, unless you want to get diabetes.
Effects of Long-Term Selenium Supplementation on the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes:A Randomized Trial. Saverio Stranges, et al. Annals of Internal Medicine, Volume 147 Issue 4.
Berberine Berberine does appear to lower blood sugar, but what little reliable research we have available about it suggests that it may do so in ways that over time will harm our bodies. You can read a detailed discussion of the problems with Berberine on this post on our blog:
Berberine Works but May Very Well Be Harmful
Other SupplementsOther supplements which you'll see routinely touted as helping diabetes include the herb Gymnema Sylvestre and the Indian spice, Fenugreek. You can try sprinkling fenugreek on your food to see if it helps you. It is sold as a spice and it can be found in fresh form at Indian grocery stores. The fresh leaves are preferable, as with most herbs too much of even a good thing may be toxic.
Don't be tempted to pay for expensive bottles of extracts or combination supplement products that promise to lower your blood sugar. I have never, yet heard of a single product that was helpful to someone with diabetes--except when the person reporting the benefit was selling the supplement.
Red Yeast ExtractMany people, rightfully concerned about the dangers of taking statin drugs, believe it is safer to take a supposedly "natural" supplement, Red Yeast Extract.
Unfortunately, this extract, when it really contains red yeast extract--not all pills sold as red yeas extract do--contains a molecule that, chemically, is a statin. If you take your statin in the unregulated supplement form you get to play "guess the dosage" as there is no guarantee that the dose of the statin contained in red yeast extract is the same from pill to pill
Even worse, The FDA warned on Aug 10, 2007 that, several brands of Red Yeast Extract illegally contain the prescription statin, Lovastatin. From the Medscape report of this problem:
FDA testing revealed that several brands of nonprescription "red yeast extract" supplements, marketed as Red Yeast Rice, Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, and Cholestrix, contained lovastatin, a prescription drug. Not surprisingly, the agent is not named in the list of product ingredients. The products are manufactured by Nature's Value Inc, Kabco Inc, and Sunburst Biorganics, respectively, and sold over the internet by the manufacturers, or in the case of Red Yeast Rice, by Swanson Healthcare Products.These unregulated Red Yeast Extract and cholesterol supplements may cause serious side effects as can all statin drugs. Avoid them.
Medscape: FDA Warns about Lovstatin in Red Yeast Supplements
Magic Beans or Proven Technology?Whatever the advantages of these supplements, none of them have the proven effect that you can get from lowering your blood sugar to normal levels using the technologies we understand well and know to be safe: These include cutting back on carbohydrates, reducing insulin resistance with exercise and/or metformin, and using carefully titrated insulin when our own insulin production has failed.
You'll find some supplements that might be helpful here:
Supplements That Work Test the supplements you'll find there that sound useful, but don't expect to use any of them them to replace these proven therapeutic approaches!