HomeArticlesThe best supplements for blood sugar control, according to science

The best supplements for blood sugar control, according to science

Medications are often necessary to manage sub-optimal blood sugar levels, but research shows that certain supplements may be useful as well. From aloe vera to chromium, here are some of the best science-backed supplements to help reign in your blood sugar.

If you struggle with high blood sugar, you’re not alone; the latest figures indicate that 1 in 3 American adults have elevated glucose levels [49]. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your health, as it may raise your risk of heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Medication is often used to manage blood sugar levels, but supplements can also have a positive impact on your risk profile. While supplements aren't a standalone strategy for dealing with sub-optimal blood sugar results, certain ones can help lower blood sugar, regulate insulin secretion, decrease insulin resistance, and improve HbA1c levels. Here are some of the best supplements for blood sugar control, according to science.
cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a common spice that may already be taking up residence in your kitchen cabinet. While it’s a great addition to any baked good or cup of coffee, it can also be beneficial for blood sugar control, as research shows that cinnamon helps to increase insulin sensitivity and move insulin more efficiently into cells [1]. 
One study found that those who took cinnamon experienced increased insulin sensitivity that lasted for at least 12 hours, with other evidence suggesting the effects can last as long as two weeks [2,3]. This may be due to cinnamon’s ability to inhibit α-glucosidase activity, which slows down the rate of carbohydrate digestion in the small intestine [4]. 
Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes by 24 mg/dL compared to those who didn’t take cinnamon [5]. 

Sources of cinnamon

You can find cinnamon in two forms:
  • Cassia. This is the most common variety of cinnamon, and is found in most food products as well as the spice aisle of any grocery store [6]. Cassia cinnamon also contains coumarin (an organic substance that can be toxic to the liver), so it’s recommended not to consume more than 0.5-1 g/day [6]. 
  • Ceylon. This type of cinnamon only contains trace amounts of coumarin, so it’s safer when consumed in high doses.

Dosing recommendations

The tolerable daily intake for coumarin is 0.1 mg/kg of body weight, which is around 1 teaspoon of cinnamon/day [6]. 

Precautions 

Cinnamon may interact with diabetic medications and could put you at risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), so it’s recommended to talk with your doctor before adding this to your supplement routine.
Ginseng

Ginseng

Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines, and has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to enhance physical and emotional well-being, and increase energy. 
There are two types of ginseng (Asian and American), however, it’s American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) extract that has been shown to regulate glucose uptake, decrease blood glucose levels, and lower insulin [7]. Studies on type 2 diabetics have found that those who took a ginseng supplement showed significant improvement in fasting glucose levels compared to those who didn’t take ginseng [7,8]. Yet, while ginseng has a positive effect on those with type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on prediabetes or healthy adults [7].

Sources of ginseng

The most natural source of ginseng is the root of the plant itself, which can be soaked in hot water to make tea, steamed, or even eaten raw. Ginseng supplements contain concentrated ginseng extract and are available in powder, capsule, tablet, and oil form. Though ginseng does not naturally occur in other foods, it is sometimes added to energy drinks and food products.

Dosing recommendations

American ginseng is likely safe when used short-term and taken in doses of 100-3,000 mg/day for up to 12 weeks [8]. 
Asian ginseng has most often been used by adults in doses of 200-3,000 mg/day for up to 12 weeks, with doses of 1000-2,000 mg/day appearing to alleviate symptoms of chronic fatigue [8]. 

Precautions

Ginseng is generally well tolerated and considered safe to take in low-to-moderate amounts, short-term. However, evidence suggests that it could cause headaches, insomnia, diarrhea, difficulty with blood clotting, or hypoglycemia, so this herb should be used with caution and under the supervision of a healthcare provider [9].  
Ginseng is not recommended for infants, children, and women who are pregnant, as well as those who have hormone sensitive tumors or conditions [10]. 
Probiotic foods in glass jars

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have long been known to support immunity, digestion, and heart health. However, emerging evidence suggests that certain probiotic strains (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. bulgaricus, L. lactis, Bifidobacterium breve, B. longum, B. infantis, B. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus and Bacillus coagulans) can be beneficial for reducing HbA1c and fasting insulin/plasma glucose levels [50].
One study found that those with type 2 diabetes experienced lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and lower blood pressure after taking probiotics for more than 8 weeks [11,12]. Given their impact on heart health markers, probiotics have also been suggested as a way to promote heart health, improve dyslipidemia, and enhance metabolic control. 

Sources of probiotics

Probiotics are naturally found in certain foods (such as fermented yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha), as well as in your gut.
Probiotics can also be taken as a supplement, but it’s recommended to choose one that contains at least 1 million CFUs/gram [13]. If you’re unsure about the right probiotic for you and your needs, check out this product.
While there are no precautions associated with probiotics, it’s recommended to speak with your doctor before starting a probiotic supplement to determine the right dosage amount. 
Aloe vera plant

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a tropical, drought-resistant plant that is native to the Mediterranean region, the Arabian Peninsula, India, China and Eastern Africa [14]. While aloe vera is widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, research shows that it also has positive effects on those with type 2 diabetes, as it may lower glucose levels after a meal and stimulate sugar breakdown [15]. 
One study found that those who took oral aloe vera supplements experienced a 1.05% decrease in HbA1c blood levels and a 46.6 mg/dL reduction in fasting blood sugar [16]. Other research also showed that those with type 2 diabetes who took 300 mg of aloe vera gel capsules for two months experienced a 4.8% decrease in fasting blood sugar levels, 8% decrease in HbA1c, 8.35% decrease in total cholesterol and 4.5% decrease in LDL cholesterol levels [17]. 
However, more research is needed to determine if aloe vera supplementation is safe and effective to prevent type 2 diabetes. 

Sources of aloe vera

Aloe vera can be obtained in supplement form or from aloe vera juice.

Dosing recommendations

There is no recommended dosage for aloe vera, but supplements can range from 100 mg to 10,000 mg depending on the brand. However, more isn’t always better–it’s recommended to consume a lower dose to reduce the risk of side effects [18]. 

Precautions

Studies have found a correlation between high doses of aloe vera (between 600 and 15,000 mg/day) and negative side effects like diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, and muscle weakness [18]. 
Aloe vera has also been shown to interact with certain drugs –especially insulin, diuretics, laxatives, and NSAIDs–and may lower the absorption and effectiveness of these medications [19]. As such, you should speak with your healthcare provider before adding aloe vera supplements to your routine.
Berberine

Berberine

Berberine is a compound found in several plants that has been used to treat inflammatory disorders, skin diseases, digestive and respiratory diseases, microbial pathologies, and may even have a positive impact on blood sugar levels [20]. 
One study found that those with type 2 diabetes experienced a 20% and 12% reduction in fasting and long-term blood sugar levels, respectively, when taking between 600 and 2,700 mg of berberine/day alongside blood sugar medication [23,24]. Other notable research has demonstrated that regularly taking berberine improves insulin sensitivity, glycolysis, and insulin production, and reduces glucose production, and carbohydrate absorption [21,22]. Berberine may even be as effective as other common blood sugar medications [25].

Sources of berberine

Berberine isn’t found in food, so it can only be obtained through supplements.

Dosing recommendations

There is no established Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for berberine, but doses between 1,000 and 1,500 mg/day have been used for research purposes [25].

Precautions

While there aren’t serious adverse effects associated with berberine supplementation, side effects may include diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and stomach pain [26]. 
Berberine may also interact with certain medications like Cyclosporine, Dextromethorphan, Losartan, and any others that are changed by the liver [27]. As such, it’s recommended to talk with your healthcare provider about these drug-nutrient interactions before taking this supplement. 
Berberine is also not recommended for infants, children, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding [27].
vitamin d on chalkboard sign with salmon, eggs, peas, and cheese

Vitamin D

Vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in bone health, immune support, cell growth and development, and glucose metabolism. Low vitamin D status can contribute to elevated HbA1c (a marker of insulin resistance) and studies have found that supplementation may improve insulin sensitivity for those at risk or newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes [28,29]. 

Sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D can be obtained through sunlight or with dietary sources like fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grains. However, since few of us get enough sun to make adequate vitamin D, and it’s only found in a few foods, supplementation may be necessary to meet vitamin D needs [32].

Dosing recommendations

The RDA for people between the ages of 1 and 70 is 600 IU per day, and for adults over 70 the RDA is 800 IU per day [30]. However, recent research shows that 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D (and up to 10,000 IU/day) can be taken with minimal side effects [31]. 

Precautions

Excess vitamin D intake (>10,000 IU/day) can harden blood vessels and increase calcium blood levels, which can lead to heart and kidney damage (both of which are concerns for those with diabetes) [32]. 
Gymnema

Gymnema

Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) is a shrub that has been used in ancient Indian medicinal practice (Ayurveda) for thousands of years. It’s been thought to inhibit sugar absorption and stimulate insulin production, and has been shown to decrease fasting and long-term blood sugar levels in people with elevated blood sugar including diabetes [33,34]. 

Sources of gymnema

Gymnema sylvestre is traditionally consumed as a tea, but it can be taken in tablet/pill form or ingested as an extract. 

Dosing recommendations

The recommended dosage for gymnema is 200-400 mg, but should be taken under a doctor’s supervision [35].

Precautions

When combined with other diabetic medications, gymnema may cause your blood sugar levels to drop and lead to dizziness, nausea, and shakiness. Gymnema sylvestre should also not be taken by children or women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant [34]. 
Talk with your healthcare provider before including gymnema in your supplement routine [35].  
Foods high in magnesium

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, heart rhythm, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and calcium absorption; yet despite magnesium’s importance, it is estimated that 60% of adults are deficient [36].
Studies indicate those who have diabetes and take magnesium supplements have better blood sugar regulation and a 22% lower risk of developing the disease compared to those who consume less magnesium [37,38]. 

Sources of magnesium

Magnesium can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach, and may also be obtained through supplementation [36].

Dosing recommendations

The RDA of magnesium for men and women is 400-420 mg and 310-320 mg, respectively, but research suggests that even 300 mg/day of magnesium supplementation may be beneficial in lowering fasting blood sugar levels and improving insulin response [39]. 

Precautions

When combined with other medications, magnesium may increase the risk of hypoglycemia, so talk with your healthcare provider before adding it to your supplement routine.
Alpha lipoic acid pills in a black dish on a gray background

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that is mainly used to convert glucose into energy through aerobic metabolism, and has been linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease, a 64% reduction in blood sugar levels, and improved insulin uptake [40,41]. Studies have found that ALA supplementation may be helpful for reducing fasting blood glucose, insulin resistance, and HbA1c levels among diabetics, compared to those who took a placebo [42].

Sources of ALA

ALA is present in certain animal products (like red meat and organ meats) and plant foods, such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. It can also be obtained through supplementation.

Dosing recommendations

Research indicates that 300–600 mg/day of ALA is sufficient, but there is also evidence which shows that adults can take up to 2,400 mg/day without harmful side effects [43].

Precautions

While ALA supplementation is generally considered safe, you may experience mild side effects (like nausea, rashes, or constipation). However, early animal research has found that extremely high doses of ALA may promote oxidation, alter liver enzymes, and place strain on liver and breast tissue [43]. Additionally, if you have diabetes, it’s recommended to consult your healthcare provider, as ALA could interact with glucose-lowering medicines.
Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women aren’t advised to take ALA unless under medical supervision.
Chromium sign with associated foods surrounding it

Chromium

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that could have a big impact on diabetes. Research shows chromium may improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance protein, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism, and that supplementation could reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by 27% [45]. 
Another research study found that people who took 400 mcg/day experienced improvements in endothelial function, lipid profile, and oxidative stress biomarkers, while those who took 200 mcg/day experienced lowered blood sugar and an improved response to insulin [46]. Other research suggests that those who have higher blood sugar levels and lower insulin sensitivity may respond better to chromium supplements compared to those who don’t have high blood sugar [47].

Sources of chromium

Chromium can be found in meats, grain products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, and brewer’s yeast, but the amounts found in these foods widely vary depending on the soil, water conditions, and agricultural processes used to produce them [48]. 

Dosing recommendations

The recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) of chromium is 35 mcg/day for adult men and 25 mcg/day for adult women, with no upper limit amount specified [48]. However, research indicates that 200 mcg and 400 mcg of chromium/day can be beneficial for blood sugar reduction and improved lipid profiles, respectively [46]. 

Precautions

Since chromium is a trace mineral, deficiency is rare, but those who are deficient may experience diabetic-like symptoms and impaired glucose tolerance [44]. Chromium supplements should not be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women. 
To see if chromium is right for you, talk with your healthcare provider before adding it to your supplement routine.

Summary

High blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on your health and raise your risk of heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. While medication is often used to manage glucose levels, supplements may also have a positive impact on your diabetes risk profile. Even though supplements aren't a standalone strategy for dealing with sub-optimal blood sugar results, certain ones (such as cinnamon, ginseng, probiotics, aloe vera, berberine, vitamin D, gymnema, magnesium, ALA, and chromium) have been shown to help lower blood sugar, regulate insulin secretion, decrease insulin resistance, and improve HbA1c levels. However, these supplements may interact with other medications and can have negative side effects, so they should be taken under medical supervision.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.

Key takeaways

  • While supplements aren’t a replacement for diabetic medications, science shows that certain supplements can prove beneficial for keeping blood sugar levels under control.
  • Cinnamon, ginseng, probiotics, aloe vera, berberine, vitamin D, gymnema, magnesium, ALA, and chromium have been shown to help lower blood sugar, regulate insulin secretion, decrease insulin resistance, and improve HbA1c levels.
  • While these supplements can be beneficial for blood sugar control, they can also interact with other medications, lead to hypoglycemia, and have other negative side effects, so talk with your healthcare provider before adding any of them to your supplement routine. 

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