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Diabetes is out of control in America. According to the American Diabetes Association, an astounding 21 million Americans have diabetes. One-third of those with diabetes are unaware they have it and require testing to identify the disease. The most common form is type 2 diabetes, a result of insulin resistance where cells do not readily accept the hormone insulin, which transports glucose into cells. Prediabetes, the stage before type 2 diabetes, is also very common, affecting up to 40 percent of the American population.
There are several different categories of diabetic drugs that reduce blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, all these classes of drugs carry the risk of a variety of serious side effects. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the rosiglitazone class of diabetic medications (Avandia, Avandaryl, Avandamet) was more likely to cause bone fractures in women. The study, which was conducted on 4,351 patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, compared women taking the diabetic medications metformin or glyburide to those taking rosiglitazone.
Without question, proper diet and exercise are critical components in controlling diabetes. Make sure to eat three moderately portioned meals per day at regular times. Never skip breakfast, which leads to blood glucose fluctuations. Keep snacks small, choosing nuts, seeds, protein drinks, vegetables, or fruit. Eat two servings of fruits and five or more servings of vegetables per day. Many diabetics notice better glucose control by including small portions of protein at every meal. Examples include nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or cashews), fish, chicken, turkey, or lean meat. Be sure to limit refined carbohydrates-white flour, candy, fruit juice, soda, etc. Natural sweeteners, such as luo han guo, stevia, and xylitol, are excellent substitutes for baking or sweetening beverages and do not adversely affect blood glucose levels.
A number of supplements have been shown in studies to reduce glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care looked at chromium supplementation in 37 people with type 2 diabetes. Participants were randomized to receive a sulfonylurea diabetic drug plus placebo or sulfonylurea plus 1,000 mcg of chromium for six months. Those receiving the medication plus chromium had significantly improved insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Those receiving the medication plus placebo had a significant increase in body weight, percent of body fat, and total abdominal fat. Chromium is best used at a dosage of 400 to 1,000 mcg daily.
Pycnogenol, standardized extract from the bark of the French maritime pine, has been shown in studies to modestly decrease blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Positive studies have used 50 to 200 mg of Pycnogenol daily.
A new herbal superstar for diabetes is Salacia oblonga, which is traditionally used in India for diabetes. On three separate occasions, researchers gave 66 people with type 2 diabetes a high-carbohydrate liquid meal, the liquid meal plus 240 mg of S. oblonga, or the meal plus 480 mg of S. oblonga. Compared to the control meal alone, 240 mg of S. oblonga lowered postmeal blood sugar response by 14 percent; the 480 mg dose lowered it by 22 percent. Insulin response was reduced by 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively.
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