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woman fighting diabetes with exercise

If you live with diabetes, you know your lifestyle can have a huge impact on how you manage your blood sugars. If you’re not following a healthy diet, you might be tempted to supplement.

“Studies show people with diabetes are more likely to use supplements than those without diabetes,” says Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist.

A National Health in Review survey found 22 percent of people with diabetes use some type of herbal therapy. Another study found 30 percent of diabetes patients rely on dietary supplements. Paddock says those statistics can be worrisome.

“While certain supplements available have been studied, there’s not enough verified evidence to show they treat or prevent diabetes,” says Paddock.

Supplement and Diabetes Myths

There has also been a lot of discussion about the benefits of cinnamon, but Paddock says there isn’t enough reliable evidence to support people with diabetes taking it as a supplement.

“What we don’t want is people thinking they can take supplements instead of their diabetes medication,” says Paddock.

She also warns against potential side effects of supplements for those with diabetes, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is especially true if someone doesn’t know what is included in the supplements.

While supplements won’t prevent or treat diabetes, studies show they can be beneficial in preventing other diseases. Certain supplements, such as omega-3 and vitamin D, can be extremely helpful when it comes to improving heart and brain health.

One of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™ is “take the right supplements for you.” Visit our blog for the latest research and recommendations on supplementation.

Managing Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms can often go unnoticed. In fact, Paddock says it’s not uncommon for someone to suffer from diabetes for more than a decade before being diagnosed. Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Supplements are not a replacement for standard diabetes treatment. Doing so can put your health at risk. Instead, try managing your diabetes by following these healthy habits:

  • Eat right. A balanced diet can help improve blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. Reach for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans and legumes.
  • Regular physical activity has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which can be useful for all types of diabetes. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Manage stress. Find out what’s causing stress in your life, learn ways to reduce or cope with daily stressors and schedule something fun on a regular basis.

If you think you might be at risk for diabetes, Paddock recommends taking an at-risk test from the American Diabetes Association. It’s also important to consult with your primary care provider if you experience any of the symptoms noted above.

If you discover you have prediabetes or diabetes, Paddock recommends consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator to learn how to better manage your blood sugar long term.

To schedule a one-on-one consultation with a Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist or certified diabetes educator, call 972.560.2655 or visit

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