Back to Food Matters Chat Herbals, Supplements and Diabetes: Round Two

Herbals, Supplements and Diabetes: Round Two

Food Matters Notes
Monday January 15, 2001
Chat Transcript

Over 40% of Americans use herbals and supplements, yet less than half of them share this information with their health care providers. In 1994, the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) was passed by Congress. This legislation moved herbals and other complementary products into the category of "dietary supplements" exempting them from the same stringent approval process that is required for drugs. This means that herbals and supplements do not require proof that they are safe and effective to be marketed. Since individuals with diabetes often take a number of other medications, they should be especially cautious when using complementary therapies because of the potential for serious side effects and drug interactions.

More than 1200 plant compounds have been tested for their ability to lower blood glucose levels, but most of that testing has not been done in humans. Among the most promising of those that have been tested in humans for lowering blood glucose include bitter melon, fenugreek, gymnema sylvestre, and ginseng. Non-plant products thought to lower blood glucose include chromium, vanadium and nicotinamide. Nicotinamide may also potentially prevent Type 1 diabetes due to its protective effect on beta cell function. Other products that may reduce the symptoms of diabetes complications or correct nutritional deficiencies associated with diabetes are alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin E, magnesium and the plant products gamma linolenic acid, ginkgo biloba and garlic.

Until more carefully designed human studies can be completed on these products, it's important to be cautious. The safety and effectiveness of these supplements are largely unproven. A few tips for safe supplement use include:

Useful References:

13 January 2001

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Last Updated: Thursday August 29, 2002 21:04:28
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