It’s scary to find out that a drug you’re taking can cause you harm. This was certainly the case for the people taking Avandia, the diabetes drug linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
The FDA recently placed new restrictions on Avandia. Doctors are now allowed to prescribe Avandia only after all other medication options have been exhausted and the patient has been made aware of the serious heart risks associated with taking the drug.
But what many diabetes patients may not be aware of is that there are other ways to do the same thing Avandia does — reduce insulin resistance. Lifestyle and dietary changes, along with nutritional supplements, can reduce insulin resistance without the risks of drugs.
Here’s what experts recommend:
First and foremost, exercise. A combination of resistance (weight training) and aerobic exercise seems to reduce insulin resistance better than aerobic exercise alone. The improved insulin sensitivity is related to loss of abdominal fat, both right under the skin and deeper. It is also related to increased muscle density. Exercise every day, or close to it.
Lose weight by cutting carbs. As little as 7-10% weight loss combined with exercise can make a huge difference when it comes to diabetes. But the weight loss must come from fat, not muscle. One study found that the best way to lose weight and increase insulin sensitivity was to have a carbohydrate deficit after exercising. Lower carbohydrate diets in general seem to reduce insulin resistance better than simple calorie-reduced diets. Replace carbs with healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
You can also reduce absorption of the carbohydrates you eat by taking a carbohydrate blocker such as phaseolamin, or Phase 2®. Made from beans, this product blocks the activity of an enzyme that breaks down starches in your intestines. Psyllium, a form of soluble fiber, also helps to block carbohydrates by interfering with their absorption.
Get enough of two trace minerals, chromium and vanadium. Chromium increases insulin binding to cells and increases the number of insulin receptors on cells. Some research suggests that chromium might also sensitize insulin-sensitive glucose receptors in the brain, resulting in appetite suppression.
Less is known about vanadium, but it’s thought that one form, vanadyl sulfate, improves insulin sensitivity in the liver and in peripheral tissues such as muscles in the arms and legs. Studies showing improvements in type 2 diabetes have used 200 to 1,000 mcg of chromium daily. With vanadium, studies have used up to 100 mg a day safely for up to 4 months. Still, experts are concerned about its long-term safety, and recommend getting vanadium from foods. Best dietary sources include mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, parsley, dill seed, grains and grain products.
Take a cinnamon extract. Plant compounds called polyphenols, in certain types of cinnamon, such as Cinnamonmum cassia, affect insulin action several ways. These compounds seem to increase phosphorylation of the insulin receptor, which increases insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon extracts also seem to activate glycogen synthetase, an enzyme that allows the liver and muscles to store glucose and increase glucose uptake. In studies, cinnamon extracts lowered glucose levels by 10-30 %.
Cinnamon’s ability to control blood sugar also makes it a valuable tool for weight loss. It even seems to reduce cravings for sugar and cause fewer calories to be stored as fat.
It’s important to use a form of cinnamon proven to be safe. That’s because cinnamon contains volatile oils, and when used frequently in high doses, cinnamon and fat-soluble cinnamon extracts may be toxic. We recommend a standardized, water-soluble cinnamon extract, such as CinnaPure, which is made using a method that effectively removes the toxic constituents while leaving important active compounds intact, making it completely safe for everyday use.
Get enough magnesium. Low magnesium inside cells results in impaired insulin action and worsening of insulin resistance. In contrast, in people with type 2 diabetes, daily supplemental magnesium improved insulin-mediated glucose uptake. Population studies show that people with low levels of magnesium are 6-7 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people with normal magnesium levels. They are especially prone to insulin resistance and high blood pressure. Magnesium also reduces inflammation and the risk for neuropathy and heart disease.
According to one analysis of studies, a 100 mg a day increase in dietary magnesium intake is associated with a 15% risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes. Most people need 400 mg a day of magnesium from food and supplements.
Consider taking these other natural products that also help to reduce blood sugar.
- Curcumin, a component of turmeric, a spice that, like cinnamon, contains polyphenols that may help regulate blood sugar.
- Green tea, also rich in polyphenols.
- Gymnema, a plant with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. (The Hindi name gurmar means ” destroyer of sugar.”) It may stimulate insulin release.