July 15, 2014

Are People with Diabetes Taking Too Many Supplements?

This is one of the better blogs by a CDE and deserves readership by people with diabetes even though it is written for CDEs on the AADE website. Carla Cox is right that there has been resurgence in advertising for herbal and other supplements. Late night TV has many advertisements for drugs that are supposed to help people with diabetes get off diabetes medications and others to help with weight loss.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that nearly 40 percent of Americans use health care methods that are not considered mainstream medicine. The website for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is here. Over half of the people with diabetes reportedly take nutritional supplements. Of these people, persons with type 2 are twice as likely and those with type 1 to use nutritional supplements.

In reading on diabetes forums, I often see alpha lipoic acid, cinnamon, chromium, ginkgo biloba, and a few others mentioned for various other maladies. The biggest problem for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Supplement use that Ms. Cox is concerned about is the lack of double-blinded randomized control trails for most of the supplements.

One source is American Diabetes Association Guide to Herbs and Nutritional Supplements: What You Need to Know from Aloe to Zinc. This book is available through most bookstores and many libraries.

I do appreciate that Ms. Cox made the following statement. “It’s important to recognize that all products that change the way our body works are drugs, whether they come from “natural” or synthetic sources.” It is a problem that herbal products and supplements lack production and marketing oversight and then must be proven to cause serious health problems before they can be removed from the market.

Ms. Cox concluded her blog with a statement to ask the patients which supplements they are taking and why. Then she instructs CDEs to assess whether the supplements are healthful, harmful, or just costing patients extra money they may ill afford.

This was not available when the blog was written, but the FDA has declared one problem people with diabetes have, inflammation, a disease. This will open the door for Big Pharma to manufacture drugs for inflammation and prevent CAM from dominating in this area. I know that Big Pharma is pushing the FDA to do this in more areas as well.

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