As we get older, we are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes (also known as late onset diabetes), the blood sugar disease that is not genetically inherited.
A healthy diet, as well as weight management (losing weight) and exercise, are key factors that lead to a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity refers to your body’s ability to better break down sugars in the blood and use them efficiently.
The greatest risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:
Several studies have shown that the amino acids, L-carnitine and L-arginine may have a positive influence on insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, allowing you to support your body’s natural regulation of blood sugar levels.
Elevated blood sugar levels result in higher oxidative stress. This stress damages cells, and, long term, leads to complications such as diabetic retinopathy, cardiovascular disease including erectile dysfunction, and disorders of the nervous system.
Therefore, vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione are among the supplements recommended to help protect cellular integrity.
The body requires the trace elements chromium, zinc, and magnesium for the production and utilization of insulin. Please read below how these trace elements affect blood sugar levels.
Consequences of diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels
Elevated blood sugar levels resulting from unrecognized, untreated, or ineffectively-managed diabetes can lead to severe damage to blood vessels, and consequently to serious circulatory disorders, which first appear in the very small blood vessels.
Typical complications include:
- Eye diseases (diabetic retinopathy), especially in type 1 diabetes;
- Erectile dysfunction in men;
- Increased risk for cardiovascular diseases (risk of heart attack and stroke is three to six times that of the unaffected population);
- Neuropathies (nerve disorders), also possible disruptions in motor skills;
- Diabetic foot ulcers (these may lead to foot amputations; in the U.S nearly 80,000 foot amputations per year are performed on diabetics)1.
Three-pronged approach to diabetes
A healthy diet, sufficient exercise, and avoidance of nicotine and alcohol can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even elevated blood sugar levels and limited insulin sensitivity can often be improved with specific measures.
In many cases, long term insulin administration can thus be avoided altogether, or at least meaningfully reduced.
In order to reduce possible damage from elevated blood sugar levels, nutrition experts recommend supporting your metabolism with the following three-pronged approach:
- Losing weight and exercising: Those who exercise strengthen their heart, circulation, blood vessels, and joints. Slightly elevated blood sugar levels can often be brought down to normal levels through a healthy diet, weight loss, and exercise alone.
- Insulin resistance and the flexibility of blood vessels can be improved through diet.
- Antioxidants can help protect cells from the damage caused by high blood sugar.
The amino acids, vitamins, and trace elements highlighted in the following section are therefore of particular importance to the body’s own regulation of blood sugar levels.
Amino acids and the regulation of blood sugar levels
L-arginine improves circulation
L-arginine plays a role in your cardiovascular health (blood pressure, particularly circulation in fine blood vessels). L-arginine forms the molecule, NO (nitric oxide), which signals in the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels.
Many studies have confirmed that taking L-arginine can result in improved circulation and blood pressure. Endothelial dysfunction (dysfunction of the interior wall of blood vessels) is usually first observed in the smallest blood vessels, for example those found in the retina of the eye or a man’s penis.
In studies, a complex of Vitamin B9 (folic acid), B6, and B12 to reduce homocysteine levels, or Pine Bark Extract was added to enhance the effects of L-arginine. L-arginine may therefore also be beneficial to people suffering from circulatory disorders related to diabetes.
L-arginine improves insulin sensitivity
Other recommended micronutrients
Vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione are important in cellular defense and are therefore in greater demand. As a result, diabetics evidence a deficiency in vitamin C more frequently than the unaffected population, of which 30% currently do not receive the recommended daily intake (80 mg).
Moreover, when comparing vitamin C levels in diabetics with those of healthy individuals, diabetics show a 30% lower level of vitamin C. Vitamin C protects the walls of blood vessels (endothelium).
A U.S. study has shown that taking vitamin C supplements can significantly improve insulin resistance 6. Taking a least 240 mg of vitamin C a day is therefore often recommended.
Compared to individuals with a healthy sugar metabolism, diabetics eliminate two to three times more zinc. Additionally, various medications exacerbate zinc deficiencies. This results in a deterioration in glucose tolerance, increased likelihood of infection, and disruptions in wound healing.
Intake of an additional 15 mg to 25 mg of zinc per day is therefore recommended 7. The European food authority as well has confirmed that zinc contributes to a healthy metabolism of sugars and lipids (fats).
Diabetics often evidence blood magnesium levels that are below recommended standards. Magnesium deficiency complicates blood sugar modulation in diabetics, worsens insulin resistance, and promotes retinopathy.
The trace element chromium is an important part of the glucose tolerance factor and plays a role in various aspects of blood sugar levels and insulin metabolism.
Taking chromium can improve glucose resistance and lower glucose levels in diabetics 8. This statement has been confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority 9. Additionally, chromium can lead to increased development of insulin receptors and can improve insulin sensitivity.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that form the precursor to Vitamin A. They are concentrated in the cells of the retina and other eye tissues.
Many studies confirm that lutein and zeaxanthin protect cells of the eyes from oxidative stress. They are therefore recommended not only for the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, but also the prevention of diabetic retinopathy.
Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA
The special omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid ) are found almost exclusively in fish oil. The human body is not capable of producing them on its own.
They are the essential building blocks of nerves, the natural antagonist to cholesterol, and protect the inner walls of blood vessels. A good supply of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA can also reduce the risk of the development of thromboses (blood clots).
- Margolis DJ, Malay S, Hoffstad OJ, Leonard CE, MaCurdy T, De Nava KL, Tan Y, Molina T, Siegel KL. Incidence of diabetic foot ulcer and lower extremity amputation among Medicare beneficiaries, 2006 to 2008. Data Points Publication Series. 2011 ↩
- Piatti PM, Monti LD, Valsecchi G, Magni F, Setola E, Marchesi F, Galli-Kienle M, Pozza G, Alberti KGMM. Long-term oral L-arginine administration improves peripheral and hepatic insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2001. 24(5):875-880 ↩
- Hoang HH, Padgham SV, Meininger C. L-arginine, tetrahydrobiopterin, nitric oxide and diabetes. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 2012. 16(1):76-82 ↩
- Rajapakse NW, Chong AL, Zhang WZ, Kaye DM. Insulin-Mediated Activation of the L-Arginine Nitric Oxide Pathway in Man, and Its Impairment in Diabetes. PLoS One. 2013. 8(5) ↩
- Giancaterini A, De Gaetano A, Mingrone G, Gniuli D, Liverani E, Capristo E, Greco AV. Acetyl-L-Carnitine infusion increases glucose disposal in type 2 diabetic patients. Metabolism. 2000. 49(6):704-708 ↩
- Paolisso G, Balbi V, Volpe C, Varricchio G, Gambardella A, Saccomanno F, Ammendola S, Varricchio M, D’Onofrio F. Metabolic benefits deriving from chronic vitamin C supplementation in aged non-insulin dependent diabetics. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1995. 14(4):387-392 ↩
- Gröber U. Orthomolecular Medicine. 3rd Edition. 2008. 245 ↩
- Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes and Metabolism. 2000. 26(1):22-27 ↩
- EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies. Scientific Opinion on health claims already evaluated (ID 215, 568, 674, 712, 1398, 1633, 1974, 4191, 4192, 4193, 4236, 4335, 4698, 4704) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal. 2011 ↩