Source: Control Diabetes
Author: Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, PhD
Minerals are vital for the formation of body structures such as bones and tissue and are involved in many physiological processes, including metabolism and energy production. Several minerals are important in diabetes management and may be useful in preventing or slowing diabetic complications.
For more than twenty years, scientists have known that ample calcium helps control and prevent high blood pressure. This should be compelling information if you have diabetes, because high blood pressure is often a complication of the disease.
If ever there was a “diabetes mineral,” chromium may be it. That’s because chromium’s main assignment in the body is to help turn carbohydrates into glucose. Chromium also helps regulate and produce the hormone insulin. In fact, chromium makes insulin work more efficiently in the body, and without it, insulin simply would not function. Good sources of chromium include brewer’s yeast, nuts, cheese, whole grains, oysters, and mushrooms.
How Chromium May Help Control Diabetes
Decades of research show that chromium supplementation lessens and even reverses the symptoms of diabetes, particularly type 2. The reasons for this are clear: Chromium helps insulin regulate and normalize blood sugar, as well as decrease requirements for insulin and oral diabetes medications. It also improves your body’s ability to transport blood glucose into cells.
Other research indicates that chromium supplementation:
Named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and youth, vanadium is a building material of bones and teeth. It is also associated with proper glucose regulation. Vanadium acts like insulin in the body and has been shown to enhance its effects, which is why this trace mineral has been intensely researched for its role in the management of diabetes. The supplemental form of vanadium is vanadyl sulfate. Food sources of vanadium include skim milk, lobster, vegetables, vegetable oils, butter, and cheese.
How Vanadium May Help Control Diabetes
Although nutritional researchers have studied vanadium for more than forty years, the mineral is not yet considered essential for humans (it is essential for plants and animals). Many scientists, however, have been rethinking this position. In 1994, an article published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association presented evidence that vanadium may indeed be an essential nutrient in our diets.
The attention paid to vanadium has to do mostly with diabetes. Research indicates that vanadium may:
The use of plants to treat diabetes is a centuries-old practice, dating back to ancient Egyptian physicians in 1550 B.C. who recommended a high-fiber diet of wheat grains as a remedy for the disease. The oral diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) originated from goat’s rue or French lilac, an herb used to treat diabetes since medieval times. Metformin is the only diabetes drug that has its origins from a botanical source. Worldwide, more than four hundred herbal remedies have been documented for managing diabetes, and in many cultures herbs are an accepted part of treatment for the disease.
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb derived from the leaves of a tree native to Africa and India. It is a member of the botanical family Asclepiadacae, named after the Greek god of healing, Asclepus.
Gymemna is best known for its ability to abolish the sensation of sweetness. In fact, the Hindu name for this herb is gurmar, which means “sugar killer.” So if you’re a sucker for sugar, this herb may curb your cravings by interfering with the ability to taste sweetness. The active ingredient in gymnema, gymnemic acid, has been shown to block sugar absorption in the body.
How Gymnema May Help Control Diabetes
Gymnema has long been used in India and Asia to help treat diabetes, and several modern studies show that it can boost the production and activity of insulin, reduce blood sugar levels, and lower levels of blood fats.
In a 1990 study, when twenty-seven people with type 1 diabetes on insulin therapy took 400 milligrams a day of a gymnema extract the outcome was fascinating. Supplementing with the herb reduced the patients’ insulin requirements, lowered their glycated hemoglobin, and normalized blood fats.
How did gymnema work such wonders? Researchers speculate that the herb enhances the action of supplemental insulin, possibly by regenerating or revitalizing beta cells in the pancreas. This explanation is based on an animal study, in which extracts obtained from the leaves of gymnema doubled the number of islet and beta cells in the pancreas of diabetic rats.
CINNAMON (Cinnamomum Verum)
Cinnamon is derived from the bark of a tree of the laurel family. In addition to spicing up foods, cinnamon has been approved by the German Commission E to ease nausea, relieve stomach gas, and treat the loss of appetite. (Commission E is Germany’s equivalent of our Food and Drug Administration.)
How Cinnamon May Help Control Diabetes
More than a decade ago, researchers at the Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition Research Center began analyzing various plants and spices used in folk medicine. They discovered that a few spices–most notably cinnamon–made fat cells more responsive to insulin.
With subsequent experiments, the researchers isolated cinnamon’s most active compound–methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP)–and found that it increased the conversion of glucose to energy by twenty times in a test tube experiment with fat cells. Another plus for MHCP: It blocked the formation of dangerous free radicals. Squelching free-radical activity can reduce or slow the progression of diabetic complications.
FENUGREEK (Trigonella Foenumgraecum)
Cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region, the fenugreek plant produces seeds that have long history of use as a restorative remedy, particularly to treat loss of appetite, digestive problems, and inflammation of the skin. When taken internally, fenugreek reduces blood sugar, increases lactation, and enhances wound healing. The seeds are rich in fiber, saponins (plant chemicals that contain carbohydrate molecules), and protein. The part of the seed rich in fiber is thought to be partly responsible for the herb’s blood sugar-lowering effect. The seed also contains an active compound called trigonelline, which acts as a blood sugar-lowering agent.
How Fenugreek May Help Control Diabetes
As an antidiabetic herb, fenugreek has been studied in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In one experiment involving people with type 1 diabetes, researchers in India tested the effects of defatted fenugreek seed powder (100 grams), divided into two equal doses and incorporated into the patients’ diet. A control group followed a diet without the fenugreek seed.
By the end of the ten-day experiment, the fenugreek-supplemented group showed significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels and improved glucose tolerance. LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides had dropped significantly too. The researchers concluded than fenugreek seeds are useful in the management of diabetes.
In people with type 2 diabetes, researchers in Israel found that powdered fenugreek seeds (15 grams daily) significantly reduced blood glucose levels following meals. They noted that fenugreek may have potential benefit in treating type 2 diabetes.