Vitamins for Diabetes: What Should I Choose?
If you’re looking to supplement your recommended daily intake of vitamins, there’s a huge and confusing variety of vitamins and dietary supplements available. This guide will help you navigate the complex world of vitamins for diabetes and look at potential drug interactions and safety issues affecting your diabetes management.
Many dietary supplements contain ingredients that can make them harmful in certain situations and even ‘natural’ supplements can be risky, particularly if you have an existing medical condition such as diabetes. You should also be aware that there is a lack of FDA oversight over dietary supplements. Before adding any dietary supplements or vitamins to your diet, discuss these changes with your diabetes healthcare team to ensure they are safe alongside any prescribed medication you’re on.
Should you add vitamins to your diet if you have diabetes?
Unless you suffer from a condition called gastroparesis there’s nothing to suggest that people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have problems absorbing vitamins. However, the fact that you have a chronic condition such as diabetes means that a healthy balanced diet with the recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals is crucial to living a healthy life. Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit, whole grains, oily fish, protein, and vegetables will ensure your body gets the best multivitamins for diabetes and is much healthier than taking a vitamin supplement. Indeed, there’s no clear evidence that vitamins taken in the form of a supplement have the same effect as those taken in the form of nutritious food.
Vitamins for Type 2 Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care says clearly that unless you have an actual vitamin or mineral deficiency, there is no evidence that supports the addition of supplements and vitamins. There are no extra benefits to be gained for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes from taking multivitamins compared to those without diabetes. However, for people with diabetes who have poor nutrition, who are using metformin for long periods, or have real vitamin deficiency, supplementary vitamins may be of benefit and should be discussed with their healthcare provider.
Most Important Vitamins for People with Diabetes
If you have a real vitamin deficiency, a supplement may be helpful. The most common vitamin deficiencies in the U.S. are Vitamin D, B12, calcium, and iron. Blood work is the only way you will know whether you have a deficiency, although there may be some signs that there is a deficiency. If you have any symptoms and you think they may be as a result of a vitamin deficiency, consult your doctor for advice.
Best Multivitamins for Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association does not generally support the use of vitamin supplements for people with diabetes but does suggest that multivitamins for people at increased risk of nutritional deficiencies such as older people, those following a very low-calorie diet, strict vegetarians, or vegans may be beneficial. It is strongly recommended that you talk with your health care provider or pharmacist before starting any vitamin or multivitamin supplement to determine if it is safe to take.
Vitamins that Affect Blood Sugar
Some vitamins and supplements may cause unwanted and even potentially dangerous side effects. Ingredients in vitamin or dietary supplements may adversely interact with diabetes medications causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or have the opposite effect and cause hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Vitamins to Help Lower Blood Sugar
Chromium. It’s quite rare to be deficient in chromium, but if you are, chromium deficiency may lead to high blood sugar levels. There is some evidence that chromium may lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Rich sources of chromium is found in broccoli, bran, egg yolk, grape juice and brewers yeast. If you are taking diabetes medications like insulin, supplementary chromium should only be used under the care of your doctor. You should not take chromium supplements if you have kidney or liver disease.
Magnesium. A magnesium deficiency may be seen in people with poor diets that are high in processed foods, and people who use caffeine, alcohol, or take diuretics (water tablets). Magnesium is found naturally in green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Magnesium supplements may lead to improved fasting blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is beneficial to your overall health. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D may have a positive effect on blood sugar control and reduce insulin resistance1. Vitamin D is produced in the body by exposure to the sun. Exposing your skin to the sun for 15-20 minutes each day can help increase your body’s production. You can also get your daily intake through dietary supplements and foods such as oily fish, nuts, eggs, fortified cereals, and powdered milk.
Additional Supplements and Vitamins for Diabetes
B12. Vitamin B12 is found in foods of animal origin and B12 fortified foods. There is scientific evidence to recommend the supplementation of vitamin B12 in people with type 2 diabetes, who are being treated with metformin, to reduce the risk of developing neuropathy and its consequences2. It is recommended that if you are on metformin, you should have a periodic blood test to check for B12 deficiency.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). ALA is an antioxidant found naturally in the body. It is also found in red meat, liver, and yeast. It may help reduce burning, itching, and pain from diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Gamma-lipoic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is necessary for good health and is found in vegetable oils, some plant-based oils. GLA may improve the function of nerves damaged by diabetic neuropathy, particularly in people who have good blood sugar control.
If you choose to take a vitamin or supplement it is important to check with your healthcare provider. Getting more than the recommended daily amount or taking a vitamin or supplement that interacts with your medication can lead to serious and detrimental side-effects. The best way to ensure you are getting your nutrients is from a natural healthy diet, fresh air, and exercise.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.