Here’s a fun fact for you.
Did you know that 16.9% of Malaysian population are actually diabetics?
Which means out of every 6 people, there is a diabetic person.
What is Diabetes anyway? Why are people so afraid of this disease?
Diabetes, or more accurately, type II diabetes is a widespread disorder affecting the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body.
Simply put, when normal people take in sugar or carbohydrates, our bodies detect the surge in sugar levels, and produce insulin to convert sugar and store it in our bodies for future use.
But, when you are a type-2 diabetic, your body becomes insensitive to insulin – and the conversion is much less effective. Your body keeps detecting high sugar levels, keep producing more insulin, but at the same time not responding to the insulin produced. You end up with high sugar level in your blood.
So? what’s wrong with that?
(image credit: Ethoushealth.com.au)
Sugar molecules are relatively big for our tiny blood vessels. High sugar levels in the blood over a long time causes the blood vessels to by damaged. Blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to our organs – so when blood vessels are damaged, our organs get damaged too!
Some of the most affected organs are:
Eyes, kidney, nerves especially the ones in the legs and feet
My explanation: These organs are located at the extremities – where blood needs to do a u-turn .
High sugar in blood also causes the blood to become heavier.
And what happens when blood is heavy? they flow a lot slower
This is another reason why diabetics have slower wound healing properties, the blood doesn’t carry enough nutrients fast enough to help repair the damage.
Also, what happens to your heart when your blood is thick and heavy? It needs to pump extra hard so that blood can circulate your whole body.
Also when blood flow is slow, clots form more easily. This is why diabetes is taken as one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart conditions – alongside with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The scariest part, insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes develop slowly overtime, but once developed, it is very hard to reverse. Medications are often necessary and most of the time, diabetics will need to be on medications for the rest of their lives.
Scary right? Trust me, you wouldn’t want to get this disease.
Did you know?
Glycemic Index is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels.
Related reading: Everything you need to know about Glycemic Index
What supplements should you take if you have type-2 diabetes
Here’s a list of supplements for people with diabetes. Some are used to help with controlling your blood sugar levels, and some are good for prevention of complications with diabetes (meaning they don’t help with sugar control directly but can help to prevent damage from high sugar content)
- ) Gymnemma
- ) Fenugreek
- ) Bitter Melon
- ) Chromium
- ) Fish Oil
- ) ALA
- ) Multivitamins
Natural Herbal Remedies for diabetes or pre-diabetes treatment
(image credit: Wikipedia )
Gymnema Sylvestre is a woody plant growing in Africa, Australia and India. It has been used medicinally in ancient Ayurveda Practice for over 2000 years. It is mentioned in the ancient Indian texts of Ayurveda as “Madhunashini,” which, in Sanskrit, literally means ‘destroyer of sugar’.
When taken orally, Gymnema can help to:
- Interfere with our bodies ability to taste sweetness
- Reduce the absorption of sugar in the intestine
- Stimulate insulin release in the pancreas
- lower blood sugar
A 2001 study found that 65 people with high blood sugar who took gymnema leaf extract for 90 days all had lower levels. Gymnema also appeared to increase glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The study authors concluded that gymnema could help prevent diabetic complications in the long term.
Another study looked at the effectiveness of GS4, which is an extract from the Gymnema sylvestre leaves, in the management of hyperglycemia. The study investigated 22 patients with type-2 diabetes. These patients were also taking regular oral medications to control their diabetes. GS4 was given to each of the study’s participants everyday for 18 to 20 months. The supplement was so successful that five participants from the study were able to stop their conventional drug treatment. It was noted that they were able to maintain normal levels of glucose and HBA1c even after their conventional treatments were discontinued.
(Please note: We do not encourage people to substitute a medication with supplements.)
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
Fenugreek is a plant that grows in parts of Europe and western Asia. The leaves are edible, but the small brown seeds are famous for their use in medicine.
Fenugreek seeds may be helpful to people with diabetes. The seeds contain fiber and other chemicals that may slow digestion and the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and sugar. The seeds may also help improve how the body uses sugar and increases the amount of insulin released.
One study found that a daily dose of 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may help control type 2 diabetes.
Another study suggests that eating baked goods, such as bread, made with fenugreek flour may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
An additional study showed that taking high doses of fenugreek every day for several weeks causes noticeable improvements in plasma glucose levels. But long-term plasma glucose levels weren’t measured in this study. The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that at this point the evidence is weak for fenugreek’s ability to lower blood sugar.
(Image credit: Flickr
Bitter melon (also known as Momordica charantia, bitter gourd, wild cucumber, and more) is a plant that gets its name from its taste. It becomes more and more bitter as it ripens.
The fruit contains at least three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have a blood glucose-lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p.
These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.
It is also known that bitter melon contains lectin. Lectin reduces blood glucose by suppressing appetite and sugar cravings in the brain, and is thought to be a major factor behind the blood sugar reduction effect that develops after eating bitter melon.
The results of a four-week clinical trial were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in year 2011. According to the study, 2,000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin.
Another older studies also suggested an association between bitter melon intake and improved blood glucose control, while a report published in the March 2008 issue of Chemistry and Biology found that bitter melon increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance.
A research published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology in 2007 however, failed to show any benefits of bitter melon for poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, while another clinical review published two years later in the British Journal of Nutrition stated that more, better-designed and clinical trials are required to confirm the fruit’s role in diabetes treatment.
Key takeaway: Bitter melon might be a good supplement to try but more research is needed to prove its effectiveness in reducing blood sugar.
Natural mineral supplements to help with blood sugar control
Chromium is a mineral found in low doses in many foods. It is an essential building block of chromodulin, which helps to the hormone insulin to perform its function in the body.
Chromium is often poorly absorbed through the intestines and the only alternate form of chromium that can be absorbed better is chromium picolinate.
The use of chromium in diabetic patients have been studies extensively over the years with mixed results.
There were studies that showed that chromium supplementation can help with blood sugar control such as these ones here:
- Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes.
- The influence of chromium chloride-containing milk to glycemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
- Characterization of the metabolic and physiologic response to chromium supplementation in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
But there were also studies that showed no additional benefit:
Key Takeaway: For those with diabetes, chromium supplements may be effective at improving the body’s response to insulin or lowering blood sugar. However, the results have been mixed, and these benefits have not typically been observed in those without diabetes. For people with diabetes, Chromium could be a good supplement to try, but for people pre-diabetic, there is little evidence to prove that chromium can help with diabetes prevention.
Supplements recommended to help prevention of complications of diabetes
Fish Oil (Omega-3 supplements)
Fish oil/Krill oil/Flaxseed oil is an important omega-3 supplement especially for people with diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory that help to prevent heart and cardiovascular disease.
A study from Harvard University found that omega 3s raise levels of a hormone called adiponectin, which increases insulin sensitivity. Researchers felt this might help prevent or control Type 2 diabetes.
As mentioned before, diabetes is an important risk factor for development of heart disease and therefore an omega-3 supplementation is highly recommended for anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetic.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a very common supplement you can find in all pharmacies. It’s often recommended to help with diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain/damage associated with poor diabetes control)
As mentioned before, one of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage. Unlike other cells, neurons or nerve cells cannot be repaired once damaged so it’s important for diabetics to be extra careful with their nervous health.
ALA is also called lipoic acid. It’s an antioxidant found in trace amounts in foods. In the body, ALA helps to protect our nerve cells from being damaged.
There is also a study that suggests that ALA may also help the body be more sensitive to insulin.
Multivitamins for diabetics
For people with diabetes, multivitamin supplement is a must. Due to the nature of the disease, people with diabetes urinate more frequently compared to normal people, and that means diabetics are often deficient in water soluble vitamins such as Vitamins B, C and Biotin.
The thing is,
People with diabetes often need more of these vitamins compared to normal people. Vitamin Bs are important for nerve health and diabetics often get neuropathy. Vitamin C is important for wound healing and immune functions and diabetics are normally weaker compared to normal people in terms of immune functions and wound healing ability.
Therefore a good multivitamin is a MUST for all diabetics – find one with good vitamin B and C content.
Supplement brands available in Malaysia for diabetes or diabetes prevention
This supplement by Safwa contains two important ingredients to help sugar control: bitter melon extract and Gymnema leaf extract. An extra feature that we like with this brand is that it’s 100% Halal and therefore is suitable for all Malaysians
Our recommended dose: Three tablets daily
Vitahealth Fenugreek & Cinnamon Complex
A very good supplement for diabetes control. It contains Fenugreek seed extract , Bitter melon extract, Gymnema sylvestre extract, Cinnamon bark extract, Turmeric extract and Banaba leaf extract, all are said to be beneficial for sugar control.
Our recommended dosage: 3 tablets daily.
Pristin Fish oil
One of the best fish oils available in Malaysia. Contains high omega-3 content and is good for people with or without diabetes.
You can also replace fish oil with krill oil if you can’t stand the fishy taste. Krill oil compared to fish oil, provides additional astaxanthin which is a good antioxidant. For vegetarians, flaxseed oil is a good vegetarian source of omega-3.
Our recommended dosage: 1 capsule daily
Surbex Natopherol ALA Plus
Surbex Natopherol ALA plus contains strong antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin C, as well as Alpha Lipoic Acid
These antioxidants are good to help prevent diabetes related neuropathy
Our recommended dose: 1 capsule once daily.
Neurobion is a very common supplement in Malaysia. It contains three vitamin Bs (b1, b6 and b12) to help improve nerve health.
Our recommended dose: 1 tablet twice daily
Blackmores multivitamins and multiminerals
This is our favourite multivitamin supplement available in Malaysia. It contains all the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need in one tablet.
Our recommended dose: 1 tablet once daily after food
This supplement contains two important ingredients thought to be good for diabetics: Chromium Picolinate and Biotin
Our recommended dose: 3 capsules daily
Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in Malaysia. For people with diabetes, the health goal is to:
- ) achieve good glucose control
- ) prevent long term complications such as kidney damage, retinopathy (damage to the eyes), neuropathy (damage to the nerves), cardiovascular or heart disease.
To help achieve these goals, supplements can be used together with medications (IMPORTANT: DO NOT REPLACE MEDICATIONS WITH SUPPLEMENTS). Some of the supplements reviewed in this article are Gymnema, Fenugreek, Bitter Melon, Chromium, Omega-3, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Multivitamins. Some supplements such as Gymnema, Fenugreek and Bitter melon are used traditionally as medicines and therefore contain more evidence to support their use. The use of Chromium however has mixed research findings but in our opinion still worth trying. Other supplements such as omega-3, ALA and multivitamins do not directly reduce blood sugar but are still highly recommended for people with diabetes as they help to prevent complications that come with diabetes.
What do you think? Do you have any other supplements that you think should be included in our list? Comment below and letu us know…
Related reading: 5 supplements for cholesterol.