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Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics Should Be Wary of Dietary Supplements

Published on Dec 2, 2013 at 8:19 am in Dangerous Drugs.

If you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, or currently managing it, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a warning about supplements. The NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found that “supplement use should be monitored closely in patients who have or are at risk for kidney disease.”

The center warns that some reports have linked supplement use to kidney disease. The website reviews several dietary supplements and issues these warnings:


Magnesium is necessary to process glucose and its deficiency has been linked to diabetes. However, the article notes, “there is no evidence from clinical trials that magnesium is beneficial in managing diabetes in the absence of magnesium deficiency.” Be aware that large doses can cause digestive problems and even death. In addition, the long-term safety of magnesium supplements has not been established.

Chromium is also essential to processing glucose. However, studies have found few or no benefits of supplements in controlling or preventing diabetes. Chromium may
cause stomach pain and in large doses it may cause more serious problems.

Herbs and Other Dietary Supplements

The article leads with this warning: “There is no strong evidence that any herbal supplement can help to control diabetes or its complications.” Here are the summary findings on the ability of the following supplements to help manage or prevent diabetes:

  • Cinnamon – Trials have shown no benefits and some risks;
  • Alpha-lipoic Acid (an antioxidant) – Studies have not found any clinical benefits and large doses have side effects;
  • Omega-3s – There is little or no evidence that they help, prevent, or manage diabetes, and high doses carry side effects.

The article makes these safety recommendations for patients:

  1. “Information on the safety of herbal supplements for people with diabetes is
    generally inconclusive or unavailable,” and
  2. “Interactions between herbs and conventional diabetes drugs have not been well studied and could be a health risk.”

People with diabetes or at risk for diabetes are encouraged to talk with their medical providers before embarking on any supplement program.