Can Nutrient Gaps Increase The Likelihood Of Diabetes Complications?

Can Nutrient Gaps Increase The Likelihood Of Diabetes Complications?

We all need good blood sugar management in our bodies to be our healthiest selves. Excess blood sugar circulating in the body can damage vein walls, nerves, and blood flow, as well as driving cravings that could lead to over-eating. And there are many foods out there that turn to sugar the minute your body processes them, even foods that have not had any sugar added to them! White bread, potatoes, pastas, white rice, and even alcohol can contribute to increased blood sugar levels your body has to process.

When your blood sugar management comes to a point where your body can no longer handle the sugars you take in, you are more likely to develop the disease diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually appears early in life when the pancreas cannot produce insulin, and is not preventable. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life, most often due to lifestyle factors that impair the ability of the body to use its insulin effectively. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but now, many younger people are also being diagnosed with this condition, the the Type 1 and 2 distinction.

Diabetes can come with a number of complications, such as numbness in the hands and feet due to damage to nerves, difficult wound healing, severe eye issues as well as kidney and liver consequences. In the following studies, we’ll see how some nutrients that are often gaps in perfectly healthy people’s diets showed some promise in helping people suffering from some of the consequences diabetes can bring.

Magnesium lowers chances for type 2 diabetes

Circulating levels as important as dietary levels

Many earlier studies have found magnesium helps control blood sugar levels and activate insulin, but most have focused on magnesium in the diet and not actual circulating levels of magnesium. In this study, doctors measured fasting levels of magnesium, glucose, and insulin, as well as long-term average blood sugar levels (A1C) in 5,044 participants over age 18.

All began the study without insulin resistance or diabetes, with 1,331 developing insulin resistance and 429 developing diabetic events over the 5.8-year trial. Compared to those with lower levels, those with magnesium levels of 0.89 to 0.93 micromoles per liter of blood (mmol/L) were 29.39 percent less likely to have developed insulin resistance, and 8.51 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes.

Discussing the findings, doctors recommended magnesium levels between 0.75 to 0.95 mmol/L to reduce chances for insulin resistance and for staying free from type 2 diabetes.

Reference: Nutrients; 2022, Vol. 14, No. 9, 1799

Folic acid improves diabetic factors

Those with type 2 diabetes often have chronic elevated levels of the inflammatory factor homocysteine, which can increase insulin resistance. Folic acid is essential for regulating homocysteine levels.

In this study, 100 men and women with type 2 diabetes, aged 45 to 75, who had been taking the standard diabetes medication metformin at 1,500 mg per day for at least six months, added 5 mg of folic acid per day or a placebo.

After 12 weeks, while the placebo group had not changed, homocysteine levels had decreased 28.2 percent for those taking folic acid. In addition, fasting blood sugar levels decreased 8.7 percent, long-term average blood sugar fell 8.2 percent, serum insulin levels dropped 13.7 percent, and insulin resistance declined 21.7 percent. The inflammatory factor, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein also declined 5.7 percent.

Reference: Nutrition & Diabetes; 2022, Vol. 12, Article No. 33

Vitamins C, D and E preserve vision in diabetes

Poor nutrition and uncontrolled blood sugar in type 2 diabetes can damage the retina of the eye, a condition called diabetic retinopathy (DR). In this review of 35 studies covering 1,056 participants with DR and 920 without, doctors measured dietary levels of several vitamins and compared to the chances of developing DR.

Overall, levels of vitamin C in those with DR were 11.01 percent lower than those who did not have DR. Levels of vitamins D and E were also lower by 3.06 and 3.03 percent, respectively, in those with DR compared to those without.

Reference: American Journal of Ophthalmology; 2022, Vol. 238, 141-56

Probiotics reduced inflammation and glucose

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body does not produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, and requires insulin injections. In this study, 56 people with type 1 diabetes, aged 6 to 18, got regular insulin injections with or without 10 billion colony-forming units of a probiotic combination.

After three months, fasting blood sugar levels in the probiotics group had decreased to 161.9 from 185.4 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) while the placebo group registered 171.5 from 172.2 mg/dL. Long-term average blood sugar levels, or HbA1C, decreased to 8.5 from 9.3 percent for probiotics while remaining unchanged at 9.5 percent for placebo.

Treatment stopped after three months, but six months later, fasting and long-term average blood sugar levels remained near the lows seen at three months for the probiotics group.

Reference: Frontiers in Endocrinology; 2022, Article ID 754401

Vitamin D and omega-3s

In the long-term VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) study, 25,875 participants took a placebo or 2,000 IU of vitamin D plus 460 mg of EPA and 380 mg of DHA per day. Doctors in this follow-up study were interested in the race of the 14 percent of participants who had type 2 diabetes, and their chances of being hospitalized for heart failure. The average follow-up period was 5.3 years.

Overall in those with type 2 diabetes, 3.6 percent who had taken vitamin D plus omega-3s had a first hospitalization for heart failure compared to 5.2 percent for placebo. For a second, or recurring, hospitalization for heart failure, there was a significant reduction for Black, but not for White, participants.

Reference: JACC: Heart Failure; 2022, Vol. 10, No. 4, 227-34

Selenium increases telomere length in women

The body requires selenium, which previous studies showed can increase telomere length, a measure of biological aging. But there are few studies of this relationship in diabetes. In this study, doctors measured selenium in the diets of 878 women with diabetes between 1990 and 2002.

Overall, for every 1 microgram increase in selenium in the diet, telomeres were 1.84 base pairs longer.

Telomeres are specialized proteins that anchor the ends of chromosome strands, protecting their DNA from damage as cells replicate. Each time a cell reproduces, telomeres shorten, eventually exposing chromosome strands to damage and impaired reproduction. Longer telomeres suggest younger biological age.

Reference: British Journal of Nutrition; 2022, S000711452200174X

Zinc reduces diabetic kidney damage

People with diabetes are more likely to be deficient in zinc, a factor present in kidney disease. This study covered 60 participants, half of whom were healthy, and half with diabetic kidney disease, a condition called diabetic nephropathy (DN). Doctors measured zinc levels and antioxidant activity to discover differences between the groups.

Compared to healthy participants, those with DN had significantly lower levels of zinc and lower levels of a protein that regulates antioxidant activity in the body: nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2). Those with low zinc levels also had higher diastolic blood pressure. Some of those with DN had sufficient levels of zinc, and their condition was less severe than those with DN who had lower levels of zinc.

Reference: Nutrition & Diabetes; 2022, Vol. 12, Article No. 37

Omega-3s improve kidney function in type 2 diabetes

This review of 10 placebo-controlled clinical studies covering 344 participants with both types of diabetes found that taking omega-3 supplements for at least 24 weeks reduced protein in the urine, an early sign of kidney disease. Those with type 2 diabetes saw the greatest benefit. Also, systolic blood pressure tended to decline in those taking omega-3s.

Reference: PLOS ONE; 2020, 0228315, Published Online

B-complex improves kidney function in type 1 diabetes

In this study, 80 children aged 12 to 18 with type 1 diabetes for at least five years took a placebo or a combination of vitamins B1, B6, and B12 daily. The children had albumin protein in the urine and high homocysteine levels, both signs of kidney damage, and were taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Elevated homocysteine levels can signal B-vitamin deficiency.

After 12 weeks, while the placebo group did not change, children taking B vitamins saw significant decreases in homocysteine levels and urinary albumin. Also, fasting and long-term average blood sugar levels declined. Triglycerides and total cholesterol levels both decreased compared to placebo and compared to the beginning of the study. Doctors noted B vitamins were safe and produced no adverse side effects in any of the children.

Reference: Clinical Nutrition; 2020, Vol. 39, No. 1, 49-56

BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery.

Article copyright 2023 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by Alex Green:

Back to blog