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5 Things To Know About Type 2 Diabetes and Dietary Supplements

About 11 percent of people in the United States have diabetes. Most have type 2 diabetes, in which the body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. Researchers have studied a variety of dietary supplements to see whether they might be helpful for type 2 diabetes or its complications. 

Here are 5 things you should know about dietary supplements for type 2 diabetes.

  1. If you have diabetes, talk with your health care provider before taking a dietary supplement. Some supplements can interact with medicines, and some have been linked to kidney disease—a particular concern for people with diabetes because diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Your provider can help you find out whether the supplement you would like to take is safe for you.

  2. Don’t take a dietary supplement instead of your diabetes medicine. Going without proper diabetes treatment would increase your risk of developing serious diabetes complications.  

  3. A few dietary supplements, such as chromium, cinnamon, or berberine, might help improve blood sugar control. However, the research isn’t strong enough to allow definite conclusions to be reached about their effects.

  4. Alpha-lipoic acid might help to reduce pain associated with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). It has not been shown to be helpful for controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes, preventing diabetic macular edema (an eye condition that can cause vision loss), or improving kidney function in people with diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage).

  5. Diabetes products that sound too good to be true may be scams. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about illegally marketed products that falsely promise to prevent, treat, or cure diabetes. Marketing claims for these products may say things like “natural diabetes cure” or “replace your diabetes medicine.” Some of these products are harmful in themselves, and all are harmful if they’re used in place of effective diabetes treatment.