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Nutraceuticals Could Be an Effective Tool in Management and Prevention of Diabetes

Nutraceuticals Could Be an Effective Tool for Prevention and Management of Diabetes

The prevalence of diabetes mellitus has been rapidly growing in previous decades. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 108 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 1980, but that number jumped to 422 million in 2014. And it is still rising.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop a condition affecting their heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, or kidneys. That is why it is essential to find an efficient, cost-effective way to prevent and manage this disease.

Researchers from the University of South Australia wanted to investigate how most common nutraceuticals affected different factors significant for the development of diabetes. They looked at chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and inflammation.

So, what are nutraceuticals?

According to the study, nutraceuticals are any food products or derivates such as minerals, vitamins, enzymes, herbs, or amino acids that bring additional health benefits besides the nutritional value. Since so many people already use various dietary supplements in their everyday life, it is vital to examine their effect on different conditions.

One of the authors, Evangeline Mantzioris, stated that over 40% of adults in Australia regularly take nutraceuticals. Since some studies show that certain nutraceuticals can be effective against chronic conditions, they could play an important role in preventing and counteracting the harmful effects of these conditions.

Researchers highlight the advantage of nutraceuticals, as they are usually cost-effective, with higher accessibility since they can be bought over the counter. Some data hints that people are spending more and more on dietary supplements and alternative medicine products. 

“The challenge is, however, knowing which nutraceuticals will deliver on their promises.” 

Dr. Mantzioris warned that people should be careful about dietary supplements since not all nutraceuticals have the same effect. With looser regulatory practices in place and a lot of misinformation on the internet, she warns that people should always consult with their doctor before taking any supplements.

Can nutraceuticals help with diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition caused by the lack of insulin production in the pancreas or body’s inability to use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. As a result, people with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, which is one of the primary reasons for poor health outcomes.

Type I diabetes is caused by the malfunction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, and it can’t be prevented. Type II diabetes is preventable, and it is predominantly caused by poor eating habits, lack of activity, sedentary lifestyle, and weight gain. These factors can cause insulin resistance, which prevents proper body response even when there’s enough insulin in the bloodstream. 

The study published in the Pharmaceutical Medicine journal reviews the current state of research regarding nutraceuticals and diabetes.

The results of the review showed mixed results: 

  • Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes, can improve insulin resistance and regulate glucose levels. 
  • Cinnamon can reduce fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. 
  • Curcumin (from turmeric) could be useful for improving insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetic individuals, with additional anti-inflammatory effects.

However, some popular weight loss supplements had no observable effect on weight management in this study.

Beetle juice and garlic could be used for lowering blood pressure, especially when combined with standard antihypertensives, and taken over a longer period.

Some nutraceuticals like phytosterols (found in vegetables and nuts) can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels when taken in with statins (common prescription drugs for cholesterol).

These results indicate that nutraceuticals have a place in managing and preventing diabetes. More studies are needed to determine the exact extent and mechanisms behind their work. While there is still a lot to learn about nutraceuticals, Dr. Mantzioris highlights that there are no alternatives to a healthy diet and regular exercise; they are the best way to influence your health positively.

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