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Medical researchers say we have more control over our blood sugar levels than we may realize. Scores of published studies support the use of a variety of nutritional and herbal supplements in combination with a high-fibre, nutritionally balanced diet as the best natural approach to blood sugar control.

Medical researchers say we have more control over our blood sugar levels than we may realize. Scores of published studies support the use of a variety of nutritional and herbal supplements in combination with a high-fibre, nutritionally balanced diet as the best natural approach to blood sugar control.

Here\’s what the scientists say about those products and how they work. But first an important reminder: people taking prescribed medications for a blood sugar related condition need to inform their physician when taking natural remedies, in case their medications need adjustment.

Eight Sweet Stoppers

1. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a sugar-busting antioxidant that inhibits the destructive enzyme aldose reductase from promoting advanced glycation. Advanced glycation is the abnormal attachment of sugar to protein, which can damage blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and eye lenses, especially in people with diabetes. ALA is only suggested if you have high blood sugar (diabetes), not low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The starting dosage is 100 mg daily.

2. Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), a tropical fruit from Asia, is used medicinally to lower blood glucose levels. In 2004, the journal Medical Hypotheses reported that \”bitter melon has the potential to down-regulate [suppress] insulin\” and \”it may have preventive value with respect to a wide range of disorders in which hyperinsulinemia [the] plays a pathogenic role and possibly could even favourably impact the aging process.\” Follow dosage recommendations on the label.

3. Chromium GTF, an essential trace mineral and the biologically active component of glucose tolerance factor, regulates normal insulin activity and function. More than any other mineral, insulin\’s effects on carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism depend upon the maintenance of adequate chromium stores within the body to help transport glucose into cells. Most studies recommend taking between 200 to 1000 mcg daily.

4. Glucomannan fibre (Japanese konjac root) is the primary active ingredient in popular fibre-based smoothie and shake products formulated for blood sugar control and weight loss. One such product developed through the University of Toronto improved insulin sensitivity by 40 percent. Results of a placebo-controlled, double-blind study on the effects of glucomannan on diabetics was reported in February 2003 in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition and recommended its use as part of the treatment plan for diabetics. All kinds of dietary fibre are useful in controlling blood sugar levels, so be sure to eat at least 40 grams of fibre from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds every day.

5. Magnesium is another key mineral influencing blood sugar levels. Researchers have generally concluded that the lower magnesium levels are in the body, the higher the blood sugar levels tend to be. They also found that magnesium deficiency promotes insulin resistance in rodents and in humans, whereas supplemental magnesium plays a role in preventing type 2 diabetes and improves insulin sensitivity. The actual biochemical role of magnesium in support of insulin function is not well understood but, fortunately, the significant improvements in blood sugar levels from taking a magnesium supplement or eating magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes are well documented. On average, a daily intake of 400 mg magnesium (citrate, chelate, or glycinate) is recommended.

6. Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) is a family of cacti native to Mexico and parts of the Mediterranean. Called nopal in Spanish, prickly pear is another example of a traditional food with valuable therapeutic properties. Two European studies found that an extract derived from the fibre of the fruit improved overall blood chemistry, including blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. With such positive results, researchers concluded it had significant potential for treating metabolic syndrome. Follow dosage recommendations on the label.

7. Soy protein, whether you\’re a guy or a gal, is good news for your blood glucose. A study published in Hormone and Metabolic Research in May 2005 showed that soy protein had a markedly positive effect on improving insulin sensitivity. In December 2004 the Journal of Women\’s Health published results of a study conducted by the Department of Family Medicine at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei that showed soy isoflavones from soy protein lowered fasting blood glucose and insulin levels in post-menopausal women.

8. Low vitamin C levels in the blood may be an indication for pregnant women that they are at increased risk for gestational diabetes. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine in April 2004 reported that women with gestational diabetes had a 10 percent lower daily dietary vitamin C intake. Women who reported daily vitamin C intake of less than 70 mg were 3.7 times more likely than the other women in the study to develop gestational diabetes. Women with the lowest levels of ascorbic acid experienced a 12 times greater risk of developing the disease compared to women with the highest levels of plasma ascorbic acid.

These are eight of the major natural products studied in relation to controlling blood sugar levels. The next time your sweet cravings get out of hand, blend up a fresh fruit smoothie and get walking to your local health food store. A wide selection of wholesome foods, supplements, and herbs are readily available to help you take back control of your blood sugar levels.


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Linda Barbara

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