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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.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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9 Comments & Updates 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!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: Also, zinc supports healthy thyroid function and health …


    J Am Coll Nutr. 2015 Mar 11:1-9.

    Effects of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Thyroid Function in Overweight and Obese Hypothyroid Female Patients: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Trial.

    OBJECTIVE: Zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) are essential trace elements involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of Zn and Se supplementation on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

    METHODS: Sixty-eight female hypothyroid patients were randomly allocated to one of the 4 supplementation groups receiving Zn + Se (ZS; 30 mg Zn as zinc-gluconate and 200 μg Se as high-selenium yeast), Zn + placebo (ZP), Se + placebo (SP), or placebo + placebo (PP) for 12 weeks. Serum Zn, Se, free and total triiodothyronine (FT3 and FT4), free and total thyroxine (FT4 and TT4), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and anthropometric parameters were measured. Dietary intake was recorded using 24-hour food recall. Physical activity questionnaire was completed.

    RESULTS: No significant alterations were found in serum Zn or Se concentrations. Mean serum FT3 increased significantly in the ZS and ZP groups (p < 0.05) but this effect was significant in the ZP group compared to those in SP or PP groups (p < 0.05). Mean serum FT4 increased and TSH decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in the ZS group. TT3 and TT4 decreased significantly in the SP group (p < 0.05). Mean FT3:FT4 ratio was augmented significantly in the ZP group (p < 0.05). No significant treatment effects were found for TT3, FT4, TT4, or TSH between groups.

    CONCLUSION: This study showed some evidence of an effect of Zn alone or in combination with Se on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update: Certain diet and lifestyle choices affect zinc status …


    Ginekol Pol. 2014 Nov;85(11):838-42.

    Effects of substances on serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women.

    INTRODUCTION: Demographic facts and forecasts about lengthening life expectancy motivate to systematize the knowledge of health problems experienced by women at the age of 50 and older. It refers to the whole health policy including health economics. Longer female life spans cause that an increasing number of women suffer from health problems associated with the perimenopausal period, and become health care recipients. Also a shift of retirement age is the reason to take interdisciplinary actions for women’s health and quality of life. This study describes a decline in the levels of many bioelements in hair, urine and blood serum, which progresses with age. It not only correlates with a decrease in the synthesis and secretion of estrogen, but also environmental pollution, unhealthy lifestyle and the use of substances.

    AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to determine the correlation between serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women and such variables as the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) and menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Material and method: The study was conducted among 152 healthy women being 1-16 years after menopause. The women were divided into study group (MHT users) and control group (MHT non-users). A sub-division criterion was the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol). Serum zinc levels were determined in all women. Results: The use of substances significantly contributed to the lowering of serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women. MHT users had statistically higher average zinc levels in blood serum, which referred both to smokers and consumers of alcohol and those who did not use these substances.

    CONCLUSIONS: (1) The use-of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) contributes to the lowering of zinc levels in blood serum. (2) MHT positively affects serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women regardless of whether they use substances (cigarettes, alcohol) or not.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 05/06/15:


    Diabetes Metab. 2015 Apr 27. pii: S1262-3636(15)00058-0.

    Oral magnesium supplementation improves glycaemic status in subjects with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial.


    This study evaluated the efficacy of oral magnesium supplementation in the reduction of plasma glucose levels in adults with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia.


    A total of 116 men and non-pregnant women, aged 30 to 65years with hypomagnesaemia and newly diagnosed with prediabetes, were enrolled into a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial to receive either 30mL of MgCl2 5% solution (equivalent to 382mg of magnesium) or an inert placebo solution once daily for four months. The primary trial endpoint was the efficacy of magnesium supplementation in reducing plasma glucose levels.


    At baseline, there were no significant statistical differences in terms of anthropometric and biochemical variables between individuals in the supplement and placebo groups. At the end of follow-up, fasting (86.9±7.9 and 98.3±4.6mg/dL, respectively; P=0.004) and post-load glucose (124.7±33.4 and 136.7±23.9mg/dL, respectively; P=0.03) levels, HOMA-IR indices (2.85±1.0 and 4.1±2.7, respectively; P=0.04) and triglycerides (166.4±90.6 and 227.0±89.7, respectively; P=0.009) were significantly decreased, whereas HDL cholesterol (45.6±10.9 and 46.8±9.2mg/dL, respectively; P=0.04) and serum magnesium (1.96±0.27 and 1.60±0.26mg/dL, respectively; P=0.005) levels were significantly increased in those taking MgCl2 compared with the controls. A total of 34 (29.4%) people improved their glucose status (50.8% and 7.0% in the magnesium and placebo groups, respectively; P<0.0005).


    Our results show that magnesium supplementation reduces plasma glucose levels, and improves the glycaemic status of adults with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 08/26/15:


    J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Oct;32:66-72.

    Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical study.

    BACKGROUND: Chromium is an essential mineral that contributes to normal glucose function and lipid metabolism. This study evaluated the effect of chromium picolinate (CrPic) supplementation in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

    METHODS: A four month controlled, single blind, randomized trial was performed with 71 patients with poorly controlled (hemoglobin A1c [HbA1c]>7%) T2DM divided into 2 groups: Control (n=39, using placebo), and supplemented (n=32, using 600μg/day CrPic). All patients received nutritional guidance according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and kept using prescribed medications. Fasting and postprandial glucose, HbA1c, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides and serum ferritin were evaluated.

    RESULTS: CrPic supplementation significantly reduced the fasting glucose concentration (-31.0mg/dL supplemented group; -14.0mg/dL control group; p<0.05, post- vs. pre-treatment, in each group) and postprandial glucose concentration (-37.0mg/dL in the supplemented group; -11.5 mg/dL in the control group; p<0.05). HbA1c values were also significantly reduced in both groups (p<0.001, comparing post- vs. pre-treatment groups). Post-treatment HbA1c values in supplemented patients were significantly lower than those of control patients. HbA1c lowering in the supplemented group (-1.90), and in the control group (-1.00), was also significant, comparing pre- and post-treatment values, for each group (p<0.001 and p<0.05, respectively). CrPic increased serum chromium concentrations (p<0.001), when comparing the supplemented group before and after supplementation. No significant difference in lipid profile was observed in the supplemented group; however, total cholesterol, HDL-c and LDL-c were significantly lowered, comparing pre- and post-treatment period, in the control group (p<0.05).

    CONCLUSIONS: CrPic supplementation had a beneficial effect on glycemic control in patients with poorly controlled T2DM, without affecting the lipid profile. Additional studies are necessary to investigate the effect of long-term CrPic supplementation.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 12/22/15:


    Biol Trace Elem Res. 2015 Dec 21.

    Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Glycemic Control and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Diabetic Nephropathy.

    To our knowledge, data on the effects of selenium supplementation on glycemic control and lipid concentrations in patients with diabetic nephropathy (DN) are scarce. The current study was done to determine the effects of selenium supplementation on glycemic control and lipid concentrations in patients with DN. This was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial in which 60 patients with DN were randomly allocated into two groups to receive either 200 μg of selenium supplements (n = 30) or placebo (n = 30) daily for 12 weeks. Blood sampling was performed for the quantification of glycemic indicators and lipid profiles at the onset of the study and after 12 weeks of intervention. Selenium supplementation for 12 weeks resulted in a significant decrease in serum insulin levels (P = 0.01), homeostasis model of assessment-estimated insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (P = 0.02), homeostasis model of assessment-estimated B cell function (HOMA-B) (P = 0.009) and a significant rise in plasma glutathione peroxidase (GPx) (P = 0.001) compared with the placebo. Taking selenium supplements had no significant effects on fasting plasma glucose (FPG), quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (QUICKI) and lipid profiles compared with the placebo. Overall, our study demonstrated that selenium supplementation for 12 weeks among patients with DN had beneficial effects on plasma GPx, serum insulin levels, HOMA-IR, and HOMA-B, while it did not affect FPG, QUICKI, and lipid profiles.

    Be well!


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