A yearlong clinical trial, performed at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, has just produced some startling proof of the widespread benefits of vitamin and mineral supplementation for people suffering from type 2 or maturity onset diabetes. A daily tablet, similar to many of the commercially available vitamin and mineral preparations, dramatically reduced the rate of minor infections in people over 45 who suffered from diabetes. These included infections ranging from flu to respiratory, urinary tract and gastrointestinal infections. Only 17% of the diabetics who took the multivitamin and mineral supplement developed infections compared with 93% of the diabetics who were given a placebo pill.

In addition diabetics who were given the vitamin and mineral supplement recorded a zero rate of absenteeism from work whereas 89% of the diabetics on the placebo pill recorded one or more days sick leave from work.

These findings therefore have important implications not only for people suffering from this form of diabetes but also for their employers and the economy.

Why does a simple, inexpensive vitamin and mineral supplement show such dramatically beneficial effects in this potentially life-threatening disease?

Diabetes is characterised by chronically raised blood sugar levels, a condition which is dangerous to the body. The body produces insulin, a pancreatic hormone which enables cells to take up glucose from the blood. Maturity onset diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, develops because the cells stop responding properly to insulin and are therefore unable to take up glucose properly. This is called insulin resistance. (Type 1 diabetes, the much less common form, results when the pancreas is damaged and can no longer produce insulin). High blood sugar levels put particular stresses on the body, including an increased production of harmful free radicals. Nutritional demands are therefore raised in this disease, especially for the antioxidant vitamins C and E. Other nutritional deficiencies that are associated with diabetes include the minerals magnesium and chromium and certain essential fatty acids.

What other evidence supports the important role of nutritional supplements in the management of diabetes?

  • Low blood levels of vitamins C and E are associated with a 4-fold higher risk of contracting diabetes. Vitamin C and E administration demonstrably improve insulin action and blood sugar control.
  • Magnesium deficiency results in impaired insulin secretion and reduces tissue sensitivity to insulin. This is reversible if the magnesium deficiency is corrected with supplements. Sub-clinical magnesium deficiency is extremely common in diabetics.
  • Chromium supplementation has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and the efficiency of insulin.
  • Supplementation with GLA, an essential fatty acid, led to improvements in several of the complications associated with diabetes, including neuropathy.

McNabs nutritional advisors therefore recommend a general, well-balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement, with a supplementary magnesium and essential fatty acid formulation.