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Minerals for Diabetes

March 23, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

When most people think about minerals and diabetes the first thing that comes to mind is the trace element chromium. It’s a reasonable association since chromium has been used extensively to help manage blood sugar in type 2 diabetics for decades. But there are other minerals that are often lacking in diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals. If these deficiencies are addressed, it may reduce the damage that poor blood glucose control can bring about.

Supplement Use in Diabetics

The foundation of true wellness is predicated upon an individualized diet and responsible lifestyle choices. In this respect, diabetes presents an excellent model. Without incorporating a suitable diet and eliminating harmful habits, it’s nearly impossible to successfully prevent the ravages of this chronic disease. If, on the other hand, a proactive approach is taken, then good health is within reach for anyone with adult-onset diabetes.

Nutrient dense foods are at the core of a health promoting diet. The greater the percentage of whole foods in our diets, the more likely we are to meet nutrient requirements. The addition of nutritional supplements can be helpful in compensating for nutrients that are hard to attain in the typical daily diet. But, keep in mind that supplements are given their name because they are intended to supplement a healthful diet and way of living. They shouldn’t be used as an excuse to eat recklessly and live dangerously.

A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care examined the role of the mineral zinc in the incidence of heart disease. Over 1,000 middle aged diabetics were included in this trial. Over the course of 7 years, 156 of the diabetic volunteers died of cardiovascular disease. A total of 254 hearts attacks occurred in this same group.  Here’s what the researchers discovered about the role that zinc may play in these common and deadly diabetic complications:

  • Volunteers with lower levels of serum (blood) zinc had a higher risk of dying from heart disease (20.8%). Those with higher zinc levels had a risk factor of only 12.8% in comparison.
  • The low-zinc group was also more likely (30.5%) to suffer from a heart attack as compared to those with a higher zinc status (22%).

This is of particular concern because another study published in January of 2008 found that diabetics often have inadequate levels of chromium, magnesium and zinc. All three of these nutrients play a vital role in supporting health in those with blood sugar abnormalities.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

Speaking of magnesium, there is also some breaking science that indicates that a lack of calcium and magnesium may increase the odds of people forming diabetes. The study I’m referring to appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee reviewed the dietary calcium and magnesium levels of over 64,000 women. They found a consistent relationship between the levels of these minerals and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These findings led the authors of the trial to conclude that, “intake of calcium and magnesium may help to protect against the development of type 2 diabetes.”

Choosing foods that are rich in calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc is important for us all. But it’s even more important in situations where we have a health condition that may require additional support, such as diabetes. Ideally it would be helpful to have mineral levels tested regularly to check for excesses or insufficiencies. But if that’s not an option, then at least make sure to cover all of your bases by eating the most nutritious diet possible and including certain key supplements to help fill in any nutritional gaps.

Be well!


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4 Comments to “Minerals for Diabetes”

  1. Ali C Says:

    Does anyone know or are there any studies done on whether fenugreek and/or is safe for children? I have an 18month old. I find your articles really informative particularly as you reference various research and trials but your explanations are simple enough to understand without being a scientist! Thanks

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Ali. :)

    Fenugreek is sometimes used to promote lactation and is occasionally used as a traditional remedy in certain countries.



    Apart from traditional use, there really isn’t any solid scientific data supporting it’s safety in infants – at least not that I found in my cursory search.

    Some sites define it as being potentially unsafe:

    http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-733-FENUGREEK.aspx?activeIngredientId=733&activeIngredientName=FENUGREEK&source=2 (in the “Side Effects” section)

    Also, a recent animal study raises questions about it’s safety in offspring. But it’s hard to say if this would practically translate to the human experience.


    When it comes to children and infants, I try to look for lifestyle or nutritional interventions prior to considering herbal remedies without a lot of supporting evidence. I tend to view herbal extracts as natural medications that should be used only when indicated – based on efficacy and safety.

    Be well!


  3. hong park Says:

    Please where we can buy these mineral materila and make drinkable?
    I am type 2 diabetic for 20 years.

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Hong,

    The use of a capsule or tablet would likely be the optimal way to ensure adequate amounts of these nutrients – rather than a drinkable powder. Which country do you reside in? Are you able to order supplements from the United States? If so, feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to provide a few suggestions.

    Be well!


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