While there is no cure for diabetes currently, apart from taking medications and insulin injection, people with diabetes are still able to take steps to manage their blood sugar levels with a proper diet, exercise as well as considering some natural supplements.
A variety of natural supplements have proven effective to manage and lower down blood sugar level, which helps reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes symptoms. Supplements can also reduce the side effects of diabetes medication.
Get to know which natural supplements that can help lowering blood sugar level will give a better chance for people in preventing diabetes.
Using Natural Supplements in Blood Sugar Level Management
1. Cinnamon extract
Cinnamon is one of the traditional folk herbs used in Korea, China and Russia for diabetes mellitus 1. Research showed that extracts of cinnamon activated glycogen synthase, increased glucose uptake, and inhibited glycogen synthase kinase-3β 2,3. Extracts of cinnamon also activated insulin receptor kinase and inhibited dephosphorylation of the insulin receptor, leading to maximal phosphorylation of the insulin receptor 3. In short, all these actions would lead to increased insulin sensitivity and thereby moving glucose into cells, lowering down blood sugar level. At the same time, there are studies suggested cinnamon extracts may lower blood sugar level following meals by blocking digestive enzymes that break down carbs in the small intestine 4, 5.
2. Bitter melon extract
Bitter melon — also known as bitter gourd, is a tropical, fruit-like gourd that has a bitter taste. It is popular to be used as both food and medicine. Bitter melon extract contains few active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charanti, which has been confirmed to have a blood sugar lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p. Altogether, these substances help to reduce blood sugar levels. Some other studies have also suggested an association between bitter melon intake and improved glycemic control, one of a published report found that bitter melon increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance 6.
3. Gymnema extract
Gymnema is a woody climbing shrub, native to India and Africa. It has been used in the ancient Indian medicinal practice Ayurveda for thousands of years. The Hindi name for gymnema means "destroyer of sugar." One of the active substances in gymnema extract, ‘Gurmarin’, has been found to interfere with the ability of the taste buds on the tongue to taste sweet and bitter. By inhibiting the sweet taste sensation, people will tend to limit their intake of sweet foods, and this activity may be partially responsible for its blood sugar lowering effect7. Gymnema is also found to be able to block receptors in intestines and thus sugar absorption, lowering post-meal blood sugar levels 8.
4. Fenugreek extract
Fenugreek is an herb with green leaves, small white flowers, and pods that contain small, golden-brown seeds. It is an aromatic plant that is widely use in Indian dishes as well as often used on both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fibre, which helps lower blood sugar level by slowing down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Furthermore, several clinical trials showed that fenugreek seeds can improve most metabolic syndromes associated with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans by lowering blood sugar levels and improving glucose tolerance. What’s more, fenugreek extract also found to increase levels of insulin in the body, leading to a reduction in blood sugar level.
5. Grape seed extract (GSE)
Grape seed extract is an industrial derivative from whole grape seeds. It is rich in antioxidants and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes which have been studied for a variety of health benefits. In a study conducted by Sapwarobol et.al., they found that the consumption of high carbohydrate meal together with grape seed extract reduces postprandial blood sugar level in healthy subjects after 15 minutes administration 9. Interestingly, proanthocyanidins in GSE, have shown potent intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase inhibitory activities which inhibit the dietary digestion of carbohydrates in intestines, thus reducing postprandial blood sugar level 10. GSE also prevents body weight gain, high blood sugar level and high insulin level by normalized the action of insulin.
6. Turmeric extract
Turmeric, often known as Curcuma longa, a member of ginger family, has been used for thousands of years as a remedy in the traditional Indian and folk medicine for the cure of a large variety of illnesses, such as inflammation, infectious diseases, and gastric. The most active component of turmeric is known as curcumin. Curcumin has shown positive effect on managing blood sugar level as well as insulin sensitivity. Curcumin works by elevating plasma insulin level, increase lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity, and activate liver enzymes, which are associated with the process of breaking down and formation of blood sugar and lipid metabolic process 11.
7. Guava leaf extract
Guava is tropical fruit with yellowish-green skin that is native to tropical and subtropical countries. It is not only used as food but also as folk medicine, in particular, the leaf extract of guava has traditionally been used for the management of blood sugar level in East Asia and other countries. Clinical trials showed that guava leaf tea that contained its extract significantly reduced postprandial blood sugar elevation 12 through inhibition of carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Another study suggested that the consecutive ingestion of guava leaf tea with every meal improves diabetes symptoms, such as high blood sugar level, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance as well as high cholesterol level in pre-diabetic and mild diabetic patients with or without high cholesterol issues 12. Furthermore, there were no side effects, such as hypoglycaemia reported when co-administered with anti-diabetic medicines 13.
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