Best and Worst Dietary Supplements for a Diabetic Diet

Are your favorite natural remedies for treating diabetes effective, or even safe? Read our guide on the best dietary supplements for a diabetic diet before you head to the vitamin aisle.

Best and Worst Dietary Supplements for a Diabetic DietJames Baigrie/Getty Images
From cinnamon and magnesium to herbal formulas claiming to smack down high blood sugar, “diabetes-friendly” supplements are popping up in health food stores and drugstores and in the medicine cabinets of more and more people with diabetes. More than 50 percent of people with diabetes say they’ve used dietary supplements, according to one 2011 study—and at least one in four has given herbal remedies a try.

The big question: Should you?

“People with diabetes may be looking for something that seems less potent than a medication or something that will treat other health issues beyond blood sugar control, such as high cholesterol,” notes Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, a University of Utah professor of pharmacotherapy and author of The American Diabetes Association Guide to Herbs & Nutritional Supplements: What You Need to Know from Aloe to Zinc. But experts are reluctant to recommend supplements to people with diabetes for two important health reasons. First, there’s virtually no research on long-term safety. Second, no supplement controls blood sugar as effectively as diabetes drugs (in combination with a healthy lifestyle).

“There are no miracle treatments for diabetes,” Shane-McWhorter says. “The most important thing to know if you have diabetes is that no supplement will take care of it for you. Diabetes is a condition that can be well controlled with a healthy lifestyle plus medication if needed. A supplement can’t replace those.”

And new science is changing the supplement landscape. In consulting the latest research as well as supplement experts for this report on the best-studied and most widely used supplements, we found that some popular pills—chromium, we’re talking about you—aren’t living up to their reputations. Others, such as vitamin D or psyllium, may be more promising. Still others should be avoided because they make false claims (supplements that promote weight loss tend to be a red flag). As recently as January of 2012, the FDA told makers of one weight-loss supplement to stop touting it as a diabetes remedy.

However, used safely, certain supplements might help you step up your blood sugar control a notch or two or help control risk for heart disease, the most common and life-threatening diabetes complication. Here, the supplements you should consider adding to (and dropping from) your diabetes treatment plan.

Next: Consider Vitamin D for a diabetic diet

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.