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Vitamin Deficiencies and Diabetes

By

Sandra Gordon

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PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

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A diabetes specialist, called an endocrinologist, has the right skills and insight to help you stay in control of your diabetes.
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Most Americans take one or more dietary supplements. If you want to prevent diabetes or manage it better, you may be wondering if certain supplements can help.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there’s no reason to pop that pill. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest dietary supplements make a difference regarding type 2 diabetes. Yet studies continue to roll in suggesting that a lack of certain nutrients in your diet may affect how diabetes develops. How much have you been getting of these three?

Vitamin A

An animal study published in  The Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2015 found that a lack of vitamin A may play a role in how type 2 diabetes develops. Vitamin A supports your immune system and cell growth and promotes good vision. The animal research showed that having plenty of vitamin A on board may also prevent the loss of beta cells, which are cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The study suggests getting enough vitamin A may help your pancreas produce more insulin and normalize blood sugar levels, two factors that may prevent type 2 diabetes.

Find it in food: Good sources of vitamin A include apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, liver, mangoes, peppers, pumpkin pie, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B12

A recent study in the  Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders found it’s common for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes to be low in vitamin B 12. Men and women need 2.4 mcg a day, or 2.6 mcg or 2.8 mcg if you’re pregnant or lactating. The vitamin helps form red blood cells and fosters a healthy nervous system, among other duties. Being low in vitamin B 12 can lead to problems such as impaired memory and nerve problems in your hands and feet.

Vitamin B 12 deficiency is especially a concern among people who take Metformin to lower glucose. The prescription drug may limit your ability to absorb vitamin B 12 that’s in food. If you’re taking Metformin, talk with your doctor about having your vitamin B level checked.

Find it in food: Beef, clams, fortified breakfast cereal, liver, salmon, trout, tuna, and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are decent sources of vitamin B 12.

Magnesium

Most of us get less than the recommended intake of magnesium, which is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. This mighty mineral plays a vital role in controlling blood sugar and energy production. Getting plenty of magnesium may lower your risk for diabetes and possibly help manage it better if you have the disease.

Find it in food: Good sources include avocados, black beans, bread, brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, potatoes, spinach, and soy milk.

Supplement Support

To make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, work with your healthcare team to develop a diabetes meal plan. If you’re thinking of taking a supplement for added health insurance, check with your doctor first. 
Keep in mind, some dietary supplements may interact with each other or other medications. Ask your doctor how the supplement you’re considering may affect your health, including your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol and any other medical conditions you have. 

Key Takeaways

  • There isn’t enough evidence to prove dietary supplements can help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. Yet studies suggest that a lack of certain nutrients in your diet may affect how diabetes develops.

  • One animal study showed that getting enough vitamin A may help your pancreas produce more insulin and normalize blood sugar levels, which may prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. 

  • Another recent study found it’s common for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes to be low in vitamin B12. This can lead to impaired memory and nerve problems in your hands and feet.

  • Getting plenty of magnesium may lower your risk for diabetes and possibly help manage it better if you have the disease.

  • To ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need, work with your healthcare team to develop a diabetes meal plan. If you’re thinking of taking a supplement, check with your doctor first.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Mar 24, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Consequences of hypomagnesemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. H Nasri. Journal of Renal Injury Prevention 2014; 3(4): 99-100. Accessed February 12, 2015.
  2. Vitamin A Deficiency Causes Hyperglycemia and Loss of Pancreatic B-Cell Mass. S. Trasino, V. Benoit et al. J. Biol. Chem. January 16, 2015; 290 (3) 1456-73. Accessed February 12, 2015.
  3. Vitamin B12 deficiency among patients with diabetes mellitus: is routine screening and supplementation justified? D Kibirige, R Mwebaze. Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders 2013, 12:17. Accessed February 12, 2015.
  4. Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
  5. Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
  6. Vitamin B12. National Institutes of Health. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
  7. Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/DS_WhatYouNeedToKnow.aspx?print=1
  8. Dietary Supplements: Talking to Your Health Care Provider. American Diabetes Association. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/other-treatments/herbs-su...
  9. Diabetes and Dietary Supplements. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Accessed February 12, 2015. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes/supplements

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