Pine Bark Extract Improves Function in Diabetes Management


Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C are scavengers of free radicals ”unstable and potentially damaging molecules generated by normal chemical reactions in the body.  Free radicals are unstable because they lack one electron. In an attempt to replace this missing electron, the free radical molecules react with neighboring molecules in a process called oxidation.  Some studies suggest that people with diabetes have elevated levels of free radicals and lower levels of antioxidants. Preliminary studies suggest that the following antioxidants may improve symptoms of diabetes (by returning blood glucose levels to the normal range) and reduce the risk of associated complications:

  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Two additional substances that show preliminary evidence to possibly help control blood sugar include:

  • Biotin (a B-complex vitamin) ”helpful for type 2 diabetes
  • Vitamin B6 ”helpful for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Supplements with Cardiovascular Effects

Because insulin resistance is often associated with cardiovascular disease, people with diabetes may benefit from nutrients that help manage elevated blood lipid levels, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure. Although the following supplements have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, there is some concern that they may raise blood glucose levels. People with diabetes interested in trying the following supplements should first consult with their healthcare providers:

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Niacin
  • Omega-3 Fatty acids

Although recent studies have not shown that either CoQ10 or omega-3 fatty acid supplements raise blood sugar levels, individuals with diabetes should discuss the safety and appropriateness of using these, or any supplements, with their physician.

In addition, the following antioxidants have been shown to improve cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes:

  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C (1000 mg per day)
  • Vitamin E (800 IU per day)

At least one study has also found that elevated manganese levels may help protect against LDL oxidation (a process that contributes to the development of plaque in the arteries).

Supplements that May Reduce Complications of Diabetes

More than one-third of all people with diabetes develop a painful condition known as diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Some researchers speculate that this condition may be caused by elevated levels of free radicals which can cause damage to nerves and blood vessels. Studies suggest that the following antioxidant supplements may improve nerve communication in damaged areas and reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy:

  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) is a rich source)

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