Choosing the best multivitamins for diabetics isn't easy. Some vitamins and minerals can worsen diabetes symptoms, which is why it's important to consult your doctor before popping pills. Also, beware that no supplement can replace a balanced diet rich in whole foods.
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Not all diabetics need a multivitamin formula. In fact, some nutrients may worsen your symptoms when consumed in excess. High doses of vitamin D, for example, can lead to calcium stones and kidney injury.
Diabetes at a Glance
More than 23 million Americans had diabetes in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's about 7 percent of the population. Each year, another 1.5 million are diagnosed with this disease.
Diabetes claims nearly 80,000 lives annually. Approximately 7.2 million suffers are undiagnosed, which increases their risk of complications. Globally, the number of people with diabetes has increased from 108 million to 422 million over the past four decades, as the World Health Organization points out. If left unaddressed, diabetes may lead to nerve damage, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and blindness, among other health problems.
The good news is that this disorder can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Regular checkups, exercise and healthy eating can make all the difference. If you have diabetes, these lifestyle measures may help improve your symptoms and reduce complications. Supplementing your diet with vitamins for diabetics will help ensure that you meet your nutritional needs and prevent deficiencies.
Micronutrients and Diabetes
What you eat has the biggest impact on your health. A balanced diet is particularly important for diabetics as it may help improve glycemic control.
People who suffer from this disease are at higher risk for organ damage, foot problems, cataracts and cardiovascular events. Being physically active and eating well can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, keep your insulin levels within normal limits and protect against complications.
Your diet should consist of whole and minimally processed foods. Cut down on sugar, salt and fat, watch your portions and limit alcohol. Spread your meals throughout the day rather than eating one or two big meals. This will help prevent blood sugar spikes and improve appetite control.
Read more: 9 Tips for Dining Out With Type 2 Diabetes
Beware that diabetes may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies, according to a March 2015 review published in Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders Drug Targets. Researchers found that people with diabetes have lower levels of vitamins A, B, C and E in the bloodstream. These micronutrients display antioxidant properties and regulate various metabolic processes.
Vitamin A and its derivatives, for instance, support pancreatic beta-cell function, scavenge oxidative stress and help your liver metabolize fats.
Other antioxidant vitamins matter, too. A study featured in the Global Journal of Health Sciences in March 2013 found that diabetic subjects who took vitamin C, vitamin E or both experienced a decrease in blood pressure and blood sugar levels within three months. Furthermore, low vitamin C levels have been linked to insulin resistance.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This disorder can affect your body’s ability to absorb and process dietary nutrients.
Your daily meals may not provide adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, diabetes may affect your body's ability to absorb certain nutrients in food. Considering these facts, it makes sense to take a multivitamin to fill in nutritional gaps.
Best Vitamins for Diabetics
Diabetics have special nutritional requirements. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect insulin response and impair glucose metabolism. A research paper published in International Scholarly Research Notices in January 2012 shows a strong relationship between micronutrient deficiencies and diabetes.
For example, vitamin D supplementation may help reduce fasting blood sugar levels while improving insulin response and blood lipids. Low levels of this nutrient may contribute to insulin resistance. The B-complex vitamins biotin and thiamin may help improve glycemic control and reduce the severity of diabetes.
Ideally, choose a multivitamin formula that contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Chromium, for instance, has beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Its blood levels are 20 to 40 percent lower in people with diabetes compared to those in healthy individuals, as reported in the above review. Research cited in the above paper linked chromium deficiency to high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, severe insulin resistance and nerve damage.
Another key nutrient for diabetes management is magnesium. This mineral regulates insulin action and glycemic control.
People with diabetes tend to have low magnesium levels because both hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia affect its absorption. Magnesium deficiency may lead to impaired renal function, accelerated cognitive decline and premature aging. Another consequence is insulin resistance.
As the Joslin Diabetes Center notes, multivitamins are necessary only for diabetics with nutrient deficiencies. A balanced diet should provide all the nutrients needed for optimum health.
However, certain groups of individuals, such as vegans and pregnant women, are at greater risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and may benefit from dietary supplements. The same goes for diabetics and healthy individuals on low-calorie diets.
How to Choose a Multivitamin
The best multivitamins for diabetics provide 100 to 150 percent of the daily value for most nutrients listed on the label. Look for a formula that contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins and minerals like chromium, magnesium and zinc.
Also, a quality multivitamin should be USP verified. This ensures that it meets the highest safety standards and contains the listed ingredients. You should find the USP seal on the product label.
Read more: The 12 Most Overrated Supplements
Be aware that more isn't always better. Some vitamins and minerals can affect your health and worsen diabetes symptoms when consumed in excess. Too much vitamin D, for example, may lead to calcium buildup in the bloodstream. This condition promotes the formation of calcium stones and can damage your kidneys.
The nutrients in multivitamin supplements can also interact with certain drugs. Vitamin E should not be taken in combination with anticoagulants, niacin, chemotherapy drugs and antiplatelet medications. Vitamin C may interact with other antioxidants, leading to elevated blood lipids. When used in large doses, it may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and digestive discomfort.
As you see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the best multivitamins for diabetics. If your diet is in check, you might not need these supplements at all. Consider getting a blood test to assess your nutritional status. Consult your doctor or reach out to a nutritionist before changing your diet or trying new supplements.
- CDC: "National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017"
- American Diabetes Association: "Statistics About Diabetes"
- WHO: "Diabetes"
- Medline Plus: "Diabetic Diet"
- NCBI: "Effect of Diet on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Review"
- NCBI: "Vitamins and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus"
- Global Journal of Health Sciences: "Association of Dietary Vitamin C and E Intake and Antioxidant Enzymes in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients"
- Diabetic Medicine: "Fruit, Vegetable and Vitamin C Intakes and Plasma Vitamin C: Cross‐Sectional Associations With Insulin Resistance and Glycaemia in 9–10 Year‐Old Children"
- International Scholarly Research Notices: "The Malnutrition of Obesity: Micronutrient Deficiencies That Promote Diabetes"
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: "The Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Glycemic Control and Lipid Profile in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus"
- NCBI: "Vitamin D Deficiency and Diabetes"
- NCBI: "Magnesium and Type 2 Diabetes"
- Joslin Diabetes Center: "Vitamin Supplements for People With Diabetes"
- USP: "Verification Services"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Is Vitamin D Toxicity, and Should I Worry About It Since I Take Supplements?"
- NCBI: "Renal Injury Due to Vitamin D Intoxication; A Case of Dispensing Error"
- NIH: "Vitamin E"
- NIH: "Vitamin C"