Simple lifestyle changes and natural supplements are the keys to prevent diabetes and avoid the expense and inconvenience of insulin injections and medications to treat diabetes. Perhaps the most convincing evidence of this was reported in an extensive study of randomized trials in 2012. Among the findings: “Before the onset of T2DM, there are two conditions characterized by blood glucose levels that are above normal but below the threshold for diabetes. If screening for T2DM in introduced, many people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) will be found and it is necessary to consider how they should be treated.” The conclusion: “In people with IGT, dietary change to ensure weight loss, coupled with physical activity, is clinically effective and cost-effective in reducing progression to diabetes.”
Here are dietary and exercise recommendations listed in the Harvard Health Blog:
1. Eat foods that help stave off diabetes. Divide your plate into 3 sections:
a) Fill one-third of your plate with lean protein—fish, legumes, beans, tofu, and/or skinless chicken;
b) Fill one-third of your plate with green vegetables—spinach, broccoli, kale, or Brussels sprouts; and
c) Assess your hunger based on a five-point scale:
The goal should be to sit down to a meal when you’re Hungry, and stop eating when you’re Satisfied.
2. Exercise 3 times a day for 10 minutes:
• In the morning when you wake up, stretch for 10 minutes.
• After lunch, take a brisk 10-minute walk.
• After dinner, strength train with light hand weights or an exercise band for 10 minutes.1
As with Alzheimer’s, many doctors are telling patients that there is no cure for diabetes. However, there are several protocols that incorporate natural herbal remedies that are reported to be effective. We recommend talking with your health care practitioner about taking supplements for diabetes, especially if you are taking prescribed medications.
- Chromium picolinate may help some people with type 2 diabetes decrease fasting blood glucose levels as well as levels of insulin and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c). Chromium may also produce modest weight loss, although the evidence is mixed. Taking 500 mcg twice daily significantly decreases HbA1c levels (a marker of blood sugar control) after two months of treatment.2
- Ginseng has shown some sugar-lowering effects in fasting and after-meal blood sugar levels, as well as in A1c results (average blood sugar levels over a 3-month period). Researchers have found that the amount of sugar-lowering compound in ginseng plants varies widely. Caution is advised because there are different varieties of ginseng and some forms of ginseng may actually raise blood sugar levels.3 Korean red ginseng was found to be safe and effective in one study.4
- Vanadium has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower the need for insulin. However, of 151 studies of humans recently reviewed, none were of sufficient quality to judge whether or not vanadium is at all beneficial for treating type 2 diabetes. The researchers did find that vanadium was often associated with gastrointestinal side effects. At present, it is not possible to say whether vanadium is helpful (or, for that matter, safe) for people with 5 Therefore, we recommend not taking it unless it is recommended by your health care provider.
- CoenzymeQ10 (CoQ10) helps cells make energy and acts as an antioxidant. A review of 16 randomized controlled trials in 2016 found that Co-Q10 supplementation slightly but significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, but not fasting insulin and HbA1c.6
- Evening primrose oil is the most popular and widely available source of GLA, a polyunsaturated fat (“good” fat, as opposed to saturated fats that may increase the risk of heart disease). Evening primrose oil is used to treat the common complication of diabetes mellitus diagnosed as diabetic neuropathy (also called neuritis). Recommended dosages are in the range of 500 to 1,300 mg per day, providing 45 to 275 mg of GLA.7
- Plant Foods rich in fiber,vitamins, and minerals. Certain plant foods may help your body fight inflammation and use insulin.
- Brewer’s yeast is a rich source of the mineral chromium, which has been studied for its ability to improve blood sugar. However, people allergic to yeast or who are more likely to have yeast infections should not take brewer’s yeast. Also, people with diabetes should talk to their doctor before taking brewer’s yeast, since it can interact with their medicines and cause lower than expected blood sugar in patients with diabetes For adults, brewer’s yeast can be taken at a dose of 1-2 tablespoons per day. The powder form can be added to food or mixed with water or juice.8
- Buckwheat: Researchers say the active ingredient in buckwheat thought to be responsible for the blood sugar lowering effects is chiro-inositol. This compound is found in high levels in buckwheat and rarely found in other foods.9
- Cinnamon: Some, but not all, studies have found cinnamon may modestly improve blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes whose blood sugar is not well controlled with medication. In an analysis of 10 clinical trials investigating the use of cinnamon (either a liquid extract or raw powder, the researchers concluded that a dose between120 mg extract and 6 grams of bark powder per day “may have a beneficial effect on fasting plasma glucose, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglyceride levels in patients with type 2 diabetes,” but found no “statistically significant effect on HbA1c”. A study conducted at a Federal hospital of prediabetic military personnel that was concluded in December, 2016 compares the effects of Metformin and cinnamon in reducing blood sugar. The results had not been published when this article was published, but when they are, you will be able to find the results at this web address: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/results/NCT01302743?sect=X01256#all. A dose of 1 gram (1,000 mg or 1/2 teaspoon) of cinnamon bark powder per day may be sufficient to cause a blood sugar-lowering effect in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.10
- Cloves: Clove has been discovered to help prevent adult onset diabetes by tripling insulin levels.11 One study points to improved cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors in type 2 diabetics taking the equivalent of one to two cloves per day.
- Coffee: Studies have shown that coffee may protect against type 2 diabetes.Coffee may also have other health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease, including liver cancer. Coffee also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.12 A Harvard research study also found decreases in the risks of contracting type 2 diabetes by increasing coffee consumption by 1 cup per day and increases in the risk by decreasing coffee consumption by 1 cup per day. “It’s unclear if it’s something in the coffee beans or if it’s in the caffeine. Some studies show reduced risk of type 2 diabetes with decaffeinated as well as caffeinated coffee, but the results have been more consistent for caffeinated coffee. Some possible explanations, beyond caffeine, include chlorogenic acid, which may delay glucose absorption, magnesium, and polyphenols,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, coauthor of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. However, drinking more than 3 cups a day of caffeinated coffee may lead to insomnia, nervousness, and the jitters.13 Harvard researcher Rob van Dam, PhD recommends that coffee drinkers switch to decaf.” . . . coffee has a positive effect on diabetes. But it is becoming increasingly clear it is not the caffeine that is beneficial. The picture is now evolving where we see that some other components of coffee besides caffeine may be beneficial in long-term in reduction of diabetes risk.” In fact, van Dam says, it appears that decaf coffee may actually help people keep their blood sugar under control, whereas regular coffee has a detrimental effect on blood sugar. Caffeine unbalanced by other coffee compounds, he says, may be even worse.14 The take-away from that last sentence is that other caffeinated beverages, such as soft drinks, are to be avoided by those at risk for diabetes.
- Okra: As a food that is high in fiber content, it can be an important part of dietary treatment for diabetes. Increased dietary fiber intake has been shown to promote better glycemic control and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Leafy greens
- Fenugreek seeds: In a 2-month, double-blind study of 25 individuals with type 2 diabetes, use of fenugreek (1 g per day of a standardized extract) significantly improved some measures of blood sugar control and insulin response as compared to placebo. Triglyceride levels decreased and HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels increased, presumably due to the enhanced insulin sensitivity.15
- Sage: In another randomized trial of 86 people, with high cholesterol and diabetes, sage leaf extract improved fasting glucose, HbA1c, cholesterol (HDL and LDL), and trigycerides when compared to placebo. Recommended for use as tea or gargle: 1–3 grams of dried sage is steeped in a cup of water, and taken three times daily. The equivalent dose of tincture or extract may also be used.16
2 Consumer Lab Product Review: Chromium Supplements, https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/chromium_supplements/chromium/
3 Consumer Lab Product Review: Chromium Supplements, https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/ginseng_supplements/ginseng/#cautions
4 Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety, http://www.nmcd-journal.com/article/S0939-4753(06)00109-8/fulltext
5 Consumer Lab, Natural and Alternative Treatments: Vanadium, https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=21881
6 Effect of Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation on Diabetes Biomarkers: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27544369
7 Product Review: Flaxseed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Oil,and Black Currant Oil Supplements: Sources of ALA and GLA(Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids) https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Evening_Primrose_and_other_sources_of_good_fats
8 Brewer’s Yeast, https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=625843
9 Buckwheat May Help Manage Diabetes, https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20031121/buckwheat-may-help-manage-diabetes
10 Product Review: Cinnamon Supplements and Spices, https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/cinnamon-supplements-review/cinnamon/
11 Health Benefits of Cloves: When All Else Fails, Try a Little Clove Oil, http://naturalsociety.com/health-benefits-of-cloves-clove-oil/
12 Does coffee offer health benefits? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339
13 Coffee may help reduce type 2 diabetes risk, say Harvard researchers, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coffee-may-help-reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk-say-harvard-researchers
14 Caffeine Risks May Rattle Diabetic People, https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20080128/caffeine-risks-may-rattle-diabetics#1
15 Fenugreek, https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=21712