Vitamins for Diabetes is an integral part of my 5-step approach to diabetes management, outlined in my book, “Reverse Your Type 2 Diabetes Scientifically.” In this article, you will learn about vitamins for diabetics, backed by scientific studies and my own extensive clinical experience as an endocrinologist.
Best Vitamins and Herbs for Diabetes – Backed by Scientific Studies
According to published scientific studies, the following vitamins for diabetics appear to reduce insulin resistance – the root cause of Type 2 Diabetes. In this way, these vitamins and herbs may help lower blood sugar level. Scientific data support their use as vitamins for diabetics:
This is a herbal formula created by me – Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi, MD – over ten years ago. It contains Berberine, Fenugreek, Gymnema sylvestre (Gurmar), Bitter Melon, Nopal, and Jamun in appropriate quantities. All these herbs have been shown in published scientific studies to significantly improve blood glucose levels in Type 2 diabetics.
Moreover, hundreds of my diabetic and prediabetic patients have used DiaHerbs for more than ten years with improvement in their blood sugar levels. In addition, I did not see any side-effects from DiaHerbs while I was closely monitoring my patients with frequent blood testing.
2. DiaMultiVitamin (previously called Glupride multi)
It is a multivitamin I formulated – over fifteen years ago – for those who have diabetes or prediabetes. It contains 21-ingredients including Alpha Lipoic Acid, Chromium picolinate, Cinnamon, Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10), Vanadium, Zinc, Magnesium, Folic acid, Iodine, Manganese, Vitamin A and all the B vitamins.
Scientific studies provide strong evidence that Alpha Lipoic Acid, Chromium picolinate, Coenzyme Q 10, Vanadium, Zinc, Magnesium, and Cinnamon may lower blood glucose in Type 2 diabetics.
Below is a detailed description of these herbs and vitamins – including scientific studies – that clearly document their blood glucose lowering effect in Type 2 diabetics.
Herbs In DiaHerbs for Type 2 Diabetes
Berberine, Fenugreek, Bitter melon, Gymnema Sylvestre, Jamun, and Nopal are well-known anti-diabetic herbs. These herbs have been used extensively in India, China and Mexico to maintain healthy blood sugar levels naturally since ancient times.
Scientific Evidence that Herbs can Lower Blood Sugar Naturally
Is there scientific evidence that herbs can lower blood sugar? The answer is yes! In this article, you will learn about these scientific findings that clearly support the use of herbs for type 2 diabetes.
1. Berberine – Herb for Diabetes
Traditional Chinese and Native American medicine have used Berberine for centuries. There are a number of clinical reports about the glucose-lowering effects of berberine in Chinese literature. However, most of the studies were not well-designed. Finally, a landmark study (1) was published in 2008. This study consisted of two components:
Berberine vs Metformin
In study A, a total of 36 patients who were newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive berberine or metformin for 3 months. Berberine was found to be as effective as metformin in lowering HbA1c, fasting blood glucose and post-meal blood glucose. In addition, berberine was better than metformin in lowering triglycerides level. The glucose lowering effect was noticed within the first week. It continued to improve over the following 12 weeks.
Berberine In Combination with Other Diabetic Drugs
In study B, 48 adults with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes were enrolled. They were kept on their anti-diabetic drugs which were sulfonylurea, metformin, acarbose and insulin – alone or in combination. Berberine was added as a dietary supplement. Patients were treated for 3 months. Berberine supplementation led to a reduction in HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, and post-meal blood glucose levels. In addition, berberine caused a reduction in triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Possible Side-Effects from Berberine
Side-effects in the study mentioned above, were gastrointestinal: diarrhea (10.3%), constipation (6.9%), flatulence (19.0%) and abdominal pain (3.4%). The side effects were observed only in the first four weeks in most patients. In 14 (24.1%) patients, berberine dosage was decreased from 500 mg three times a day to 300 mg three times a day, as a consequence of gastrointestinal adverse events. Of the 14 patients, ten were treated with metformin or acarbose in combination with berberine. Diarrhea and or flatulence are well-known side-effects of metformin and acarbose.
None of the patients suffered from severe gastrointestinal adverse events when berberine was used alone. Berberine did not cause any change in liver or kidney function.
Additional Benefits of Berberine
2. Fenugreek – Herb for Diabetes
Traditional medicines all over the world use fenugreek seeds to help diabetics. Recently, researchers have been conducting scientific studies on the beneficial effects of fenugreek in diabetes.
Scientific Evidence for Fenugreek
A number of studies show that fenugreek can lower blood glucose in diabetics. In a critical study (7), researchers analyzed data from 10 clinical trials of Fenugreek in diabetic patients. They found that fenugreek significantly decreased fasting blood glucose by about 18 mg/dl. In addition, it lowered post-meal glucose by about 40 mg/dl and hemoglobin A1c by 0.85%, as compared with a placebo.
Clinical trials (8, 9, 10, 11) also demonstrate that fenugreek in Type 2 diabetes not only lowers glucose level, but also reduces serum triglycerides. High triglycerides are a marker for insulin resistance – the root cause of Type 2 diabetes. Lowering of triglycerides means insulin resistance is coming under control. In this way, Fenugreek targets Type 2 Diabetes at its roots.
3. Bitter Melon/Gourd – Diabetic Herb
Bitter melon is also called bitter gourd. It is vegetable that is commonly used in many Asian countries.
Scientific Evidence for Bitter Melon
In an experimental study (12), bitter melon clearly lowered blood glucose and Hemoglobin A1C in diabetic rats in a 30 day period.
A review article (13) critically evaluated the studies for the glucose lowering effects of bitter gourd. The authors concluded that some of the studies do indicate that bitter melon may help people with diabetes. They also commented that bitter gourd treatment is safe for humans.
In another study (14), researchers found that bitter melon not only lowers blood sugar levels but also reduces insulin resistance, the root cause of Type 2 Diabetes.
4. Gymnema Sylvestre (Gurmar) – Herb for Diabetes
Gymnema Sylvestre is a diabetic herb, which is cultivated worldwide. In India, it is known as gurmar, which means “sugar killer.”
Scientific Evidence for Gymnema Sylvestre
In an experimental study (15), Gymnema Sylvestre leaf extract reduced blood glucose by 13.5 -60.0% in rats with diabetes.
In a human study (16), Gymnema Sylvestre, was given to 22 Type 2 diabetic patients for 18 – 20 months. Gymnema supplementation was able to lower blood glucose and HbA1c. In addition, many participants in the study could lower the dose of their anti-diabetic drugs. Five of the twenty two diabetics discontinued their anti-diabetic drugs altogether.
In addition to lowering blood glucose, Gymnema Sylvestre helps to reduce weight. It also lowers serum triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and increases HDL-cholesterol. (17) These effects are highly desirable in Type 2 diabetics, who often are obese. They also have elevated triglycerides level, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol.
5. Jamun – Herb for Diabetes
Jamun – also known as black plum – grows abundantly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. It has been used in traditional folk medicine from ancient times. Before the discovery of insulin, jamun was a frontline herbal treatment for Diabetes, even in Europe. In India, diabetics commonly consume Jamun seeds after brewing them in boiling water. In a review article (18), authors validated the anti-diabetic effects of Jamun.
Several studies show the beneficial effects of Jamun on Diabetes in animals as well as humans.
Scientific Evidence for Jamun
In an excellent, placebo-controlled, prospective clinical study (19), researchers investigated the effects of Jamun seeds in Type 2 diabetics. They had three groups: 10 patients on no anti-diabetes drugs, 10 patients taking oral anti-diabetic drugs, and a control group of healthy individuals.
Each group consumed dry powdered seeds of Jamun for fourteen days. On the 15th day, researchers collected fasting blood and urine samples for glucose. The results were impressive. In every patient, there was a marked decrease in fasting blood glucose in patients who were on anti-diabetic drugs as well as those who were on no anti-diabetic drugs. Moreover, there was no decrease in blood sugar in individuals without Diabetes.
6. Nopal – Diabetes Herb
Nopal (or the prickly pear cactus) has been used for glucose control by Mexicans for centuries. Now scientific research reports improvement in glucose control with Nopal.
Scientific Evidence for Nopal
One study (20) was carried out in three groups of patients with Type 2 diabetes. Group one (16 patients) ingested 500 grams of broiled nopal stems. Group 2 (10 patients) consumed only 400 ml of water as a control test. Group 3 (6 patients) ingested nopal, water and 500 grams of broiled squash.
Researchers found that serum glucose and serum insulin levels decreased significantly in groups 1 and 3. But, no similar changes were noticed in the control group 2. The reduction in glucose was 17% in group 1 and 16% in group 3; There was a reduction of insulin by 50% in group 1 and 40% in group 3.
This study clearly shows that the stems of Nopal lower blood glucose as well as insulin level in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Lowering of insulin level is a good thing in Type 2 diabetes. It indicates reduction in insulin resistance, which is the root-cause of Type 2 Diabetes.
Vitamins For Diabetes and Prediabetes in DiaMultiVitamin
(previously known as GLUPRIDE Multi)
1. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) – An Essential Vitamin for Diabetics
It is normally produced in small quantities in the cells and helps in the normal function and integrity of the cells.
Alpha Lipoic Acid helps to decrease insulin resistance – the underlying mechanism of Type 2 Diabetes.
In large doses, Alpha Lipoic Acid functions as a strong antioxidant. It helps to fight off oxidative stress by clearing the oxygen free radicals inside the cell. Free Oxygen radicals are produced inside the cells constantly as a byproduct of energy production. These free Oxygen radicals can damage the cell. That is where antioxidants play an important role to neutralize these free Oxygen radicals.
Cells of diabetic patients are under a tremendous amount of oxidative stress. That’s why it makes perfect sense to use Alpha Lipoic Acid as a supplement for diabetes.
Several studies show that ALA helps to lower blood sugar level in diabetes.1
Studies Show Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid for Peripheral Neuropathy
Based upon a number of scientific studies, Alpha Lipoic Acid appears to help peripheral neuropathy in diabetic patients.
For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (1), researchers gave three daily doses of Alpha Lipoic Acid (600 mg dose, 1200 mg dose or 1800 mg dose) to 181 diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy and concluded that treatment with Alpha Lipoic Acid for 5 weeks improved symptoms of neuropathy. They also observed that an oral dose of 600 mg once a day appears to provide the optimum benefits. Increasing the dose to 1200 mg or 1800 mg was not associated with further improvement of neuropathy.
Alpha Lipoic Acid has even been given intravenously in clinical trials with significant improvement in peripheral neuropathy, and without any significant side-effects. In a critical analysis, researchers evaluated the results of four placebo-controlled clinical trials (ALADIN I, ALADIN III, SYDNEY, NATHAN II), with a total of 2258 patients and concluded that treatment with Alpha Lipoic Acid (600 mg/day intravenously) over 3 weeks is safe and significantly improves peripheral neuropathy. ( 2 )
My Own Clinical Experience
In my own extensive experience at the Jamila Diabetes and Endocrine Medical Center, Alpha Lipoic Acid is an excellent vitamin for diabetics. In addition, it is effective and safe in helping diabetics with peripheral neuropathy.
How much Alpha Lipoic Acid?
The usual dose of Alpha Lipoic Acid that I use in my patients is 600 mg per day. This dose of Alpha Lipoic Acid is present in the multivitamin for diabetes, DiaMultiVitamin.
Foods rich in Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid is naturally present in foods such as organ meats (heart, liver and kidneys), and vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also present in small quantities in brussels sprouts, peas, tomatoes and yeast, particularly brewer’s yeast.
2. Chromium Picolinate – Excellent Vitamin for Diabetes
It is a mineral that exists in many foods including meats, potatoes (especially the skins), cheeses, molasses, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Chromium helps in many functions of our body such as digestion and normal metabolism of glucose.
Studies Indicate Chromium Picolinate may Improve Glucose Metabolism
Several studies have shown beneficial effects of chromium supplementation in diabetic patients.
In one such study researchers investigated the effect of Chromium Picolinate in Chinese individuals with Type 2 diabetes. For four months, one group received Chromium Picolinate 100 micrograms twice a day, the second group received Chromium Picolinate 500 micrograms twice a day and the third group received a placebo. At the end of the study, researchers noted significant improvements in glucose control in the diabetics receiving 500 micrograms twice per day. In addition, there was improvement in insulin resistance and cholesterol level. (3)
Researchers – in another study – evaluated twenty-five randomized, controlled trials and concluded that Chromium supplementation, at a dose of more than 200 micrograms per day, has a favorable effect on glucose control in diabetic patients. In addition, Chromium Picolinate appears to lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), by decreasing insulin resistance. Moreover, Chromium supplementation was found to be safe. (4)
My Own Clinical Experience
I have been using Chromium Picolinate in my Type 2 diabetic patients at the Jamila Diabetes and Endocrine Medical Center since 2004. I have found it to be effective and safe in Type 2 diabetics. Therefore, I consider Chromium Picolinate as an essential vitamin for diabetics.
How much Chromium Picolinate?
The usual dose that I use in my patients is 800 microgram per day.
3. Vanadium – May Help Lower Blood Glucose
It is an essential trace mineral that is present in most mammalian cells.
Vanadium is well known to be a beneficial vitamin for diabetics. Studies show that Vanadium decreases insulin resistance. It also acts as an insulin-like agent.
In an experimental study in Type 2 diabetic mice, researchers found that oral administration of vanadium for 3 weeks decreased blood glucose level from 236 mg/dl to 143 mg/dl.(5)
In a well-designed clinical study (6), researchers gave vanadium (as vanadyl sulfate) at a dose of 100 mg per day for 3 weeks to six Type 2 diabetics. These patients were already on treatment with diet and sulfonylurea drugs. Their diabetes was quite uncontrolled, with fasting blood glucose of 210 mg/dl and HbA1c of 9.6. After 3 weeks of vanadium, there was a modest improvement in the fasting blood glucose. It came down to 181 mg/dl from 210 mg/dl. More importantly, vanadium decreased insulin resistance at all three levels – liver, muscles and fat.
In another study (7), researchers compared the effects of a dose of 100 mg per day of vanadium (as vanadyl sulfate) in moderately obese Type 2 diabetics versus non-diabetics. They found that vanadium decreased insulin resistance only in diabetics, but not in non-diabetics.
It is pretty convincing that vanadium is an excellent vitamin for diabetics.
How Much Vanadium?
The usual dose of Vanadium is 100 mg per day.
Dietary Sources of Vanadium
The main dietary sources of vanadium include mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, parsley, dill weed.
4. Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10) – May Lower Blood Sugar Level
Coenzyme Q10 may help lower blood glucose levels.
In a clinical study (8), researchers gave Co Q10 at 200 mg per day to 9 diabetic patients. After a period of 12 weeks, researchers observed a significant improvement in hemoglobin A1C. In another study (9), researchers gave Co Q10 at 200 mg per day to 74 diabetic patients. They also observed a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1C. In addition, they also noticed a drop in blood pressure.
Co Q10 is a strong antioxidant. It is also important for the normal functioning of the mitochondria: the energy power houses inside the cell. Now consider this: Statin drugs such as Zocor (simvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin) are commonly used in diabetic patients. Unfortunately, these drugs also lower the level of Co Q10. Why? Statins inhibit the production of mevalonate, a precursor of both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10. This may be one of the reasons why many patients experience muscle aches and/or muscle weakness while on a statin drug.
Co Q10 improves muscle relaxation of the heart in patients with hypertension, which is commonly present in patients with diabetes.
Natural Sources of CoQ10
Co Q10 is highest in red meats and organ meats, such as liver and heart. Other food sources of Co Q10 include fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), walnuts, peanuts, spinach, whole grains. soybeans and sesame seeds. However, overcooking reduces the amount of Co Q10 present in foods.
How much Co Q10?
Overall, Co Q10 supplementation appears to be beneficial for patients with Type 2 diabetes. The usual dose is 100 to 300 mg per day.
5. Zinc and Diabetes
Zinc is an essential trace element that exists in all cells and is required by thousands of chemical reactions in the body. Zinc is involved in the synthesis, storage and secretion of insulin, as well as insulin action. It is also a strong antioxidant. What many people don’t know that it is also an excellent vitamin for diabetics.
Studies Show Zinc Deficiency May Increase the Risk of Diabetes
Several animal studies have shown Zinc deficiency to be associated with high risk of Type 2 as well as Type 1 diabetes, but there are very few human studies. In one such study (10), researchers investigated the relationship between dietary intake of Zinc, and diabetes and coronary artery disease in 1769 rural individuals and 1806 urban individuals in India. The authors concluded that low dietary zinc was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and coronary artery disease in urban subjects only.
In another study (11), researchers followed 82,297 women in the USA for 24 years and concluded that higher Zinc intake may be associated with a slightly lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, Zinc deficiency is quite common which may partly explain the pandemic of Type 2 diabetes. Click here to learn more about Zinc deficiency.
Studies Show that Zinc Supplementation May Help Type 2 Diabetics
In an animal study (12), researchers gave Zinc to Type 2 diabetic mice for 4 weeks. They observed a significant improvement in blood glucose level as well as a reduction in insulin resistance. In addition, Zinc treatment caused weight loss and a decrease in high blood pressure (hypertension.) In another study (13), Zinc supplementation alleviated diabetic peripheral neuropathy in diabetic rats.
How about human studies? In a critical review article (14), authors analyzed all of the published studies in humans for the effects of Zinc supplementation on diabetes and cholesterol and found that Zinc supplementation caused a mean drop of 18 mg/dl in fasting blood glucose, 35 mg/dl in 2-hour post-meal blood glucose, and a 0.54% reduction in HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1C). In addition, Zinc supplementation caused a mean decrease of 11 mg/dl in LDL cholesterol. Additionally, these studies showed a significant reduction in blood pressure after Zinc supplementation.
In addition to being an excellent vitamin for diabetics, Zinc is also important to fight off infections (such as common colds, pneumonia, diarrhea), heal wounds and prevent/treat AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration.)
6. Magnesium and Diabetes
As an essential mineral, Magnesium plays an important role in the normal functioning of each and every cell in our body. In particular, it is involved in energy and carbohydrate metabolism, insulin secretion, insulin action, muscle contraction and nerve conduction.
Low levels of Magnesium increase your risk of insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, coronary artery spasms, muscle aches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, dementia, lupus, menstrual cramping, systemic inflammation, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.
Studies Show Low Magnesium May Cause Type 2 Diabetes
In a long-term, prospective study (15), researchers followed 85,060 women and 42,872 men who had no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at baseline. After 18 years of follow-up in women and 12 years in men, the researchers discovered 4,085 and 1,333 cases of Type 2 diabetes, respectively. In their analysis, there was a significant inverse association between magnesium intake and diabetes risk. In other words, the lower the magnesium intake, the higher the risk of developing diabetes.
Researchers – in a well designed clinical study (16) – investigated the relationship between magnesium in the blood and the risk of developing diabetes in 12,128 middle-aged, non-diabetics during a 6 year follow-up. Authors concluded that low magnesium in the blood is a strong predictor of development of Type 2 diabetes, among white but not among black individuals.
Can Magnesium Supplement Improve Diabetes?
In a well-designed study (17), researchers recruited a total of 63 Type 2 diabetics, who had decreased magnesium levels in the blood. These patients received either 50 ml of Magnesium Chloride solution (containing 2.5 g of Magnesium Chloride) or a placebo for 16 weeks.
The researchers found that magnesium supplementation, as compared to placebo, showed a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose levels from 185 (10.3 mmol/l) to 144 mg/dl (8.0 mmol/l). HbA1c also decreased from 10.1% to 8.0%. In addition, magnesium supplementation decreased insulin resistance in these diabetics. Therefore, Magnesium is an excellent vitamin for diabetics.
Natural Sources Of Magnesium
The best way to get Magnesium is through foods that are high in Magnesium. Good dietary sources of Magnesium are seeds, nuts, dark leafy green vegetables and fish. These foods are also important for your overall health, especially if you are a diabetic. Other foods that contain some quantities of Magnesium include beans, lentils, whole grains and figs.
7. Cinnamon and Diabetes
Physicians have long been intrigued by the beneficial effects of cinnamon on human health, especially as a vitamin for diabetics.
In December 2003, an excellent scientific study was published in Diabetes Care, (25) in which cinnamon powder was used in 60 patients with Type 2 diabetes. Three daily doses, 1 gram, 3 grams and 6 grams were used. There was a decrease in blood glucose by 18-29%. Serum triglycerides also decreased by 23-30%. Patients consuming 6 grams of cinnamon powder per day appeared to have achieved results earlier (at 20 days), but at 40 days, all doses had the same efficacy in lowering blood glucose and triglycerides level.
In this way, it appears that Cinnamon may be an important vitamin for diabetics.
Certain vitamins and herbs may help diabetic patients, as evidenced by numerous well-designed scientific studies which have been published in prestigious medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Diabetes Care and Diabetes. As an endocrinologist, I investigated these studies and came up with two formulations:
DiaHerbs: Herbs for diabetes
DiaMultivitamin: Vitamins for diabetics
I have been using these diabetic supplements in my patients for over 10 years. I am happy to report that results have been gratifying to my patients as well as myself.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product in not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.