What key nutrients are needed to prevent and treat Type 2 Diabetes?
What is the link between cow’s milk and developing Type 1 Diabetes?
Following my recent blog on New Zealand’s huge rise in Type 2 Diabetes risk factors, let’s focus on some specific nutrients to help reduce that risk and restore health. Supplements for diabetes prevention are outlined below. First though, a few words about prevention of Type 1 Diabetes.
Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitis (IDDM), now known as Type 1 Diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Scientific studies have identified that infants who are exposed to cow’s milk during their first three months of life have a significantly increased risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes in adolescence. Not only is this another good reason to continue breast feeding for as long as possible, it signals to me a need for cautious use of cow’s milk products at any age. It’s good to remember that cow’s milk is made for calves’ digestive systems, not designed for large scale human consumption.
Proteins in cow’s milk can cause health problems due to malabsorption in the gut, antibody production and mucous promotion creating heightened immune sensitivity. Don’t let marketing myths persuade you differently, industrialised milk processing increases the incompatibility factors, particularly when consumed in large quantities. If you must have some milk in your diet make sure you choose only raw milk products.
Type 2 Diabetes develops in response to a severe imbalance in the body’s self-regulating systems, so there are early warning markers that indicate you may be developing the disease. Obesity, fluctuating blood sugar levels and the cluster of symptoms called Metabolic Syndrome X are all indicators of diabetes risk. Here are the specific nutrients to look for when considering supplements for diabetes prevention.
Chromium is needed to regulate blood glucose, but is excreted from the body faster when blood glucose is high, as in diabetes. The vicious cycle that ensues just worsens the diabetic state, and an intervention is needed. Research studies support therapeutic intervention with chromium supplements to improve glucose tolerance in all types of diabetes. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) increases the effectiveness of chromium when they are combined. Both are necessary elements in Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), which is produced by the liver to increase the effectiveness of insulin in controlling glucose metabolism.
Alpha Lipoic acid, known as the ‘universal’ antioxidant, also increases insulin sensitivity and activates an enzyme involved in insulin regulation, so has a direct effect on glycaemic (blood sugar) regulation. Erratic blood sugar states produce oxidative stress, so antioxidants are strongly indicated. Vitamin C also increases chromium absorption and is needed in greater quantity by diabetics.
Two more nutrients that are more effective for controlling glucose metabolism when taken in combination are Selenium and Vitamin E (preferably a broad spectrum tocopherol complex). Low selenium levels are a common factor in diabetes and Vitamin E helps improve insulin activity as well as being an important antioxidant, so supplementing these two nutrients is an important part of restoring glycaemic balance. Omega 3 fatty acids directly affect insulin action and studies show supplementation reduces insulin resistance, particularly in conjunction with Vitamin E. In addition Magnesium levels are typically low in diabetics, correlating with insulin resistance. Research has shown a clear link between magnesium supplementation and improved glucose control. Zinc also improves insulin action.
A recent Massey University study found that Vitamin D is not only an important nutrient in controlling blood sugar, but high doses are effective in improving insulin activity in diabetics.
The two amino acids Taurine and Carnitine are also important glycaemic balancers. In addition, taurine’s antioxidant and lipid lowering actions help prevent the small blood vessel damage commonly associated with diabetes. Carnitine assists glycogen synthesis for maintaining glucose homoeostasis in Type 2 Diabetes, and also inhibits the toxic effects of glucose which lead to common complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 also help prevent or improve neuropathy.
Fibre helps control the glycaemic effect of a food. Including plenty of fibre-rich wholefoods in your daily diet supports healthy glycaemic function. Conversely, eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low in fibre more than doubles your chance of diabetes developing. Remember the epigenetic effect this can cause and make the changes now that will reduce the diabetes risk in future generations.
By Carolyn Simon ND, DipMedHerb
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