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Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience

Vitamins are a must for cells within our body to function properly. Supplements help to get the adequate amount of nutrients in case food is unable to provide it. For people with diabetes, vitamin supplements containing 100% of the daily value of B-complex, Vitamin A, copper, zinc, magnesium and chromium are recommended. Dr. Amita Bhandarkar, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine and Diabetology at Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road, Bengaluru gives us a complete overview of vitamin supplement treatment, especially as recommended for people with diabetes.

List of vitamins essential for people with diabetes

1. Vitamin A:

Older people with Type 2 diabetes tend to have lower levels of Vitamin A. Retinol is prescribed in such situations as it is the most active form of vitamin A. Retinol Binding Protein is found to have a direct effect on insulin sensitivity. [1]

2. Vitamin B:

Thiamine (B1), Folic acid (B9) and Cobalamin (B12) are important B vitamins for people with diabetes:

  • B1: Low levels of B1 have been observed in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes both. B1 supplementation for diabetes patients tends to show a remarkable decrease in the levels of blood glucose and leptin – also called the appetite hormone[2]. This vitamin is therefore useful for people with diabetes.
  • B9: Deficiency of vitamin B9 and B12 is linked with an increase of homocysteine in the blood. Higher levels of homocysteine are observed in people with type 2 diabetes. It is also linked to related complications, such as diabetic retinopathy. B9 supplementation has been found to improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes as it helps reduce HbA1C, fasting blood glucose, serum insulin, and homocysteine levels and improves insulin sensitivity.
  • B12:  B12 deficiency can be caused by taking metformin. B12 deficiency is also found in people with diabetes who are not on metformin. If these people get nerve damage too, the condition is bound to worsen. People with diabetes who suffer from severe diabetic neuropathy may get some relief if they start having Vitamin B12 supplements.

3. Vitamin C:

People who have Type 2 diabetes tend to have increased levels of oxidative stress. This is mainly because of high blood sugar levels. In such cases, having vitamin C tends to work as a potent antioxidant [3].  Higher vitamin C concentrations are linked to reduced levels of HbA1C and blood glucose. Going natural? Try amla – a great source vitamin C.

4. Vitamin D: 

There is also an association between vitamin D and type 2 diabetes – the lack of vitamin D leads to pancreatic beta cell dysfunction, impaired insulin action and inflammation in the body, which tend to have a direct impact on people with type 2 diabetes.

5. Vitamin E: 

Vitamin E concentrations have been found to be low in people with diabetes [4]. This means that Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and is required in good amounts by people who have diabetes. 

List of supplements recommended for people with diabetes:

Fish oil capsules, chromium, magnesium, psyllium, alpha lipoic acid and fenugreek can be taken as supplements.

  • Fish oils capsules contain omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation, decrease off-rhythm heartbeats and discourage artery clogging in people at risk of heart disease.
  • Chromium enhances the action of insulin and reduces glucose in the system.
  • Magnesium levels are often low in patients who have complications of type-2 diabetes. However, the beneficial effects of magnesium are still unknown. Read these early symptoms of diabetes complications you might be ignoring.
  • Psyllium supplements that contain soluble fibre help in slowing down the natural rise of blood sugar after a meal.

Precautions while taking supplements that people with diabetes must observe:

Firstly, always ask your doctor before you start any supplements, especially herbal supplements. Secondly, having anything in excess generally does not give good results. So keep the following precautions in mind to avoid any adverse effects on your health.

  1. Excess consumption of vitamin A supplements can lead to side-effects such as dizziness, nausea, severe headaches and even coma in extreme cases.
  2. Too much Vitamin B1 supplements can give a rise to diabetes-related complications. Unsightly patches on the skin, nausea, heartburn and extreme sensitivity are all side-effects of Vitamin B6 supplements.
  3. Excessive intake of vitamin D can lead to hazardous effects such as constipation, weakness, weight loss and vomiting. Extremely high doses of Vitamin D can also spike calcium levels leading to confusion, damaged kidneys, disorientation, and irregular heartbeat.

Do antibiotics react with any vitamin supplements?

Antibiotics and vitamin supplements do not interact with each other. However, ensure you inform your doctor of any supplements you are on and stop/start them only after consultation.

Note: Do not take any of the above-mentioned supplements and vitamins without consulting with your healthcare provider. The text provided above is only for information purposes and in no way can be replaced or considered over any medical advice.

References:

    1. Thomas Reinehr, Birgit Stoffel-Wagner, and Christian L. Roth Retinol-Binding Protein 4 and Its Relation to Insulin Resistance in Obese Children before and after Weight Loss. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jun; 93(6): 2287–2293. Published online 2008 Apr 8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2745.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729181/
    2. Bhavani Jayabalan and Lian Leng Low. Vitamin B supplementation for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Singapore Med J. 2016 Feb; 57(2): 55–59. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2016027. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759374/
    3. Christie-David D, Girgis C, Gunton J. Effects of vitamins C and D in type 2 diabetes mellitus. 10 February 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 21—28. https://www.dovepress.com/effects-of-vitamins-c-and-d-in-type-2-diabetes-mellitus-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-NDS
    4. Hagit Goldenstein, Nina S. Levy, Yisrael T. Lipener, and Andrew P. Levy. Patient Selection in Vitamin E Treatment in Diabetes Mellitus. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2013 Mar; 11(3): 319–326. doi: 10.1586/erc.12.187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3615189/

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for patient awareness only. This has been written by qualified experts and scientifically validated by them. Wellthy or it’s partners/subsidiaries shall not be responsible for the content provided by these experts. This article is not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Please always check with your doctor before trying anything suggested on this article/website.