Aside from contributing to diabetes, blood sugar issues can have dangerous effects on the body. When blood sugar starts to build up, it can negatively affect the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, problems with eyesight, kidney issues and nerve pain or neuropathy.
The following vitamins and minerals may help reduce blood sugars. They should be one component of a comprehensive program, including diet, exercise and other medications that your doctor may prescribe. Please do not start taking any vitamins or supplements without first checking with your healthcare team to ensure that medication you are currently taking does not need to be adjusted in any way.
In addition to being important for maintaining healthy bones, vitamin D may play an important role in blood glucose control. Some studies suggest that low vitamin D levels increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and that treating vitamin D deficiency may help reduce rates of diabetes. Whether vitamin D deficiency is the cause of high blood sugar or whether blood sugar elevation somehow results in lower vitamin D levels remains unclear, but it is best to avoid vitamin D deficiency, especially if you have blood sugar issues or a family history of diabetes. Your doctor will be able to diagnose a deficiency with a blood test.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a water and fat soluble vitamin that has been used to treat elevated blood sugars. It reportedly works to decrease insulin resistance, making the body more sensitive to whatever circulating insulin still exists. While ALA may have modest effects on blood sugar, it is indicated as very helpful for diabetic neuropathy. The antioxidant effect of ALA seems to reduce the nerve inflammation responsible for this very painful and often debilitating condition. Talk to your doctor before taking ALA.
Another nutrient that may help in the treatment of diabetes is chromium. This trace mineral is essential to the human body and is needed to help process carbohydrates, protein and fat, and it enhances the action of insulin. People with diabetes have lower levels of circulating chromium than their healthy counterparts. However, there is not yet solid data to support supplementing with chromium will prevent progression of diabetes or improve control of blood sugars. Talk to your doctor to see whether taking chromium is advisable for you.
Biotin (vitamin B7) has been shown to have some effect on lowering blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. There is also evidence that a combination of biotin and chromium is effective. Both of these vitamins play a role in energy and carbohydrate metabolism, and together they have been used for treating diabetic neuropathy and pain, with fairly positive results. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Arielle Miller Levitan, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician and the cofounder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. She attended Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and has served as chief medical resident for the Northwestern University McGraw Medical Center’s Evanston Hospital Program and as a clinical instructor for its medical school. She has a special interest in women’s health and preventive medicine and currently practices general internal medicine on the North Shore of Chicago, where she teaches medical students on-site. She enjoys cooking, cardio tennis, running, being a soccer mom (sometimes) and spending time with her three kids and husband (also a doctor of internal medicine).
Romy Block, MD, is a board-certified specialist in endocrine and metabolism medicine, member of American Thyroid Association, and the cofounder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. She attended Tufts University and Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. She completed residency training in internal medicine at North Shore University Hospital—North Shore-LIJ and did a fellowship at New York University. She practices on the North Shore of Chicago, where she specializes in thyroid disorders and pituitary diseases. She enjoys travel, food and wine, working out with her personal trainer and spending time with her husband (a pulmonary and sleep specialist) and their three boys.