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Vitamin Supplements for People with Diabetes

Do people with diabetes need vitamin supplements? And if they do, which ones should they consider taking?

Eating balanced meals and snacks is important for staying healthy and maintaining good glycemic control, emphasizes Nora Saul, M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E, a patient educator with the Joslin Clinic.

Choosing whole foods over supplements is advantageous since foods provide a myriad of different nutrients  for health in one package, whereas single vitamin supplements are single purpose. For example, raspberries contain vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, Saul points out. In fact, the use of supplements is usually not supported unless a deficiency state is suspected. Well controlled diabetes does not increase the need for supplementary vitamins and minerals. 

So who could benefit from a vitamin supplement?

  • Those on low calorie diets, who do not eat a variety of foods
  • Those following vegan diets
  • Pregnant women

Those whose medical conditions require a restricted diet, such as people with certain food allergies, kidney disease or diseases of the gastrointestinal tract that interfere with nutrient digestion or absorption.

One vitamin that many people, including those with diabetes, may need supplementation of is vitamin D, Saul emphasizes. Although the current government recommendation is 400 IUs  recent research has indicated that this may not be enough. In addition to being important for maintaining healthy bones, vitamin D may play an important role in blood glucose (sugar) control.  We get vitamin D both from foods and the sun. Unfortunately, there are few dietary sources of vitamin D and for those of us in the Northern latitudes; the winter sun is not strong enough to allow our bodies to manufacture the amount we need. For many of us taking a supplement with 800 to 1000 IU per day may be helpful and is not considered dangerous.  

What about chromium, magnesium and vitamin C and E? Although there have been some studies demonstrating a relationship among these nutrients and either glycemic control or heart health, at present there is not enough compelling research to recommend generalized supplementation

If you choose to take a dietary supplement:

  • Select one with no more than 100 to 150 percent of the daily value for the listed vitamins and minerals. Men and post-menopausal should choose a supplement without iron
  • Choose a brand that has the USP seal on the package.  USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) ensures the product meets standards for strength and purity.
  • Check expiration dates.
  • Store supplements safely-in a cool, dry place out of reach of children.

You should always consult with your diabetes care team prior to starting a vitamin regimen. Your healthcare professional can offer guidance about the best regimen for you.

Page last updated: October 01, 2014