17 March 2011

For those with pre-diabetes and diabetes, there are various nutrients the body needs in larger amounts.

WORLD Diabetes Day falls on November 14 this year. The first such world diabetes event was introduced in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the alarming rise in cases of diabetes around the world.

IDF has made “Diabetes Education and Prevention” the theme of its World Diabetes Day campaigns for the next five years, from 2009 to 2013, to address the global gaps in education.

The latest IDF data reveals that over 285 million people worldwide now live with diabetes and this number will increase to 435 million by 2030.

Diabetes claims four million lives every year and is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and amputation.

“Diabetes education is a basic human right for every person with diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation calls on the world to invest in the education, treatment, and care for diabetes for the millions of people with diabetes worldwide,” says Marg McGill, IDF senior vice president and chair of the IDF Consultative Section on Diabetes Education (DECS).

Diabetes defined

Diabetes is a debilitating disease in which your blood glucose, or sugar level, is too high.

Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to provide the cells with energy.

With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make enough insulin or use it effectively. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems.

Diabetes can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke, and even lead to amputation.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include fatigue, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, and frequent urination.

Some people have no symptoms. A blood test can show if you have diabetes.

Prevention is the best medicine

Obviously, the best treatment for any disease is primary prevention. Can type 2 diabetes be prevented? Absolutely, and it is quite clear that the best way to achieve this goal is via lifestyle and dietary measures.

While current conventional medical treatment has undoubtedly led to many diabetics living healthier and longer lives, the most effective treatment of diabetes and other blood sugar problems still requires the utilisation of the lifestyle and dietary strategies.

The role of nutritional supplement

Supplying diabetics and pre-diabetics with additional key nutrients has been shown to improve sugar control as well as prevent or reduce the development of major complications of diabetes.

Specific examples of key nutrients that diabetics need in a higher amounts (when compared to those found in the ordinary daily multivitamin and mineral formulations) include vitamin B1, B6, B12, biotin, niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, vanadyl sulphate, zinc, and chromium.

Diabetics also need more of alpha-lipoic acid, a universal antioxidant that can function in both the watery and fatty regions of the cells.

Alpha-lipoic acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful natural antioxidant that keeps free radicals from causing damage to nerves resulting from poorly regulated blood sugar (glucose). Alpha-lipoic acid has been used for over 30 years in Europe (especially in Germany) to counter nerve damage, including retinopathy (retinal damage) in people with diabetes (types I and 2). It also helps to improve the utilisation of glucose by muscle.

Vanadyl sulphate

Vanadyl sulphate may improve glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. Vanadyl sulphate has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Due to possible insulin-like effects of vanadium, adequate amounts of this trace mineral is desirable in those with blood sugar abnormalities.


Chromium helps diabetics and pre-diabetics boost their insulin sensitivity by increasing both the number of insulin receptors on cells and the activity of those receptors. Supplementation with chromium provides better control of sugar with less insulin.

Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin)

Japanese scientists have identified a form of vitamin B12 that protects against neurological (nerve) disease and ageing by a unique mechanism that differs from current therapies. Some of the disorders that may be preventable or treatable with this natural vitamin therapy, called methylcobalamin or mecobalamin, include peripheral neuropathies.

The word neuropathy is derived from two parts: “neuro” referring to the nerve, and “pathy” indicating disease. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition involving the nerves outside the central nervous system, mainly in the arms and legs.

Nerves are the communication lines of the body. Electrical signals from the brain travel through the nerves and give instructions to various parts of the body. The body receives information from the environment through the senses and sends this information to the brain via the nerves.

The majority of the peripheral nerves are responsible for sensations you feel such as touch, pain, and temperature. There are literally millions of these nerve endings in your fingers, hands, toes, and feet, which are designed to keep you out of danger and away from the things that are hot, cold, sharp, etc.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include: numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature; a tingling, burning, or prickling sensation; sharp pains or cramps; extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch; and loss of balance and coordination.

The benefits of methylcobalamin for nerve health include protection against nerve damage, helping in nerve regeneration and reducing nerve pain.

Diabetics are susceptible to infections and delayed wound healing. A study has shown that diabetics who take daily supplements for one year experienced a decreased rate of illness and infections compared to study subjects who took placebos.

If you’re a diabetic or pre-diabetic, your nutritional requirements are different. Hence, remember to look for a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that has all the above mentioned ingredients found in higher potencies.

Take one that is specially formulated for diabetics and pre-diabetics in mind to help optimise health and prevent complications.

Having said how important a good daily multivitamin and mineral supplement is for those with high blood sugar levels, it is recommended that one combines it with the neurologically active vitamin B12 – mecobalamin – because of its ability to help prevent and regenerate damaged nerves.

this article was published in www.thestar.com.my on 8 November 2010.