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DIABETES DEFENSE? Don’t count on supplements to lower your blood sugar

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Nutrition Action

Date published: May 1, 2015

Blood Sugar Manager. Blood Sugar Defense. Blood Glucose Success. GlucoMiracle. If you have elevated blood sugar, supplements with names like those may grab your attention. Can they really help keep your blood sugar (blood glucose) under control?

The “gold standard” test is to see if their main ingredients lower hemoglobin A1c levels when pitted against a placebo. (A1c shows your average blood sugar over the past three months: 5.6 percent or less is normal, 6.5 percent or more means you have diabetes, and anything in between is prediabetes.)

Most studies were done in people with type 2 diabetes who were also taking drugs to lower their blood sugar. That’s not the same as testing a supplement by itself or in people with prediabetes. But it’s all there is for the most popular ingredients in “sugar” supplements.

Author: Schardt, David


In five good studies, a total of 349 people with type 2 diabetes took a daily dose of 1,000 mg (‘A teaspoon) to 4,S00 mg (13A teaspoons) of cinnamon or a placebo. After three to four months, A1c levels in the cinnamon takers were no lower.


In a 1997 study of 150 people with type 2 diabetes in China, those who took 200 or 1,000 micrograms a day of chromium picolinate had lower A1c levels after four months than those who got a placebo.2

Since then, however, chromium (including picolinate) has struck out in 7 of 8 studies-including all four from the United States or Europe-in a total of 476 people with type 2 diabetes who took 400 to 1,000 meg a day or a placebo for at least three months.3

And in a six-month Yale University study of 59 people with prediabetes, 500 and 1,000 meg a day of chromium picolinate was no better at lowering A1c than a placebo.4


No good studies have compared cymnema with a placebo on A1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes.


Only one good study has looked at fenugreek and A1c in people with type 2 diabetes. Chinese researchers gave 46 patients 6.3 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of powdered fenugreek seeds every day. Twenty-three patients got a placebo. After 12 weeks, average A1c levels fell from 8.0 to 6.6 in the fenugreek takers, but from 8.6 to just 8.2 in the placebo takers.5

That’s worth more research, but no good studies have been published in the seven years since the Chinese study appeared.


In the only trial that lasted long enough to see an impact on Ale levels in people with type 2 diabetes, researchers in the Philippines gave daily capsules containing bitter melon fruit and seeds or a placebo to 40 patients. After three months, A1c levels were the same in both groups.6


The two largest and longest studies gave 921 men and women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes 600 mg of lipoic acid or a placebo every day. After two years in one study and four years in the other, A1c levels were no lower in the lipoic acid takers than in the placebo takers.7-8


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