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Can Supplements Reverse Prediabetes Naturally?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Specific dietary supplements, including berberine, cinnamon, chromium, and probiotics, have been linked with improved blood sugar markers in people with prediabetes. 
  • More high-quality studies are needed to fully understand the effectiveness of these supplements as well as the proper dosage and safety considerations. 
  • It’s important to talk with your doctor before starting a supplement to prevent diabetes, as some products may cause side effects or health risks. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, chances are, your healthcare team has recommended diet and lifestyle changes for diabetes prevention. Emerging research shows that specific dietary supplements may be beneficial as well. 

Many supplement companies market their products for treating prediabetes naturally, but what does the research say about these claims?

Read this article to learn more about the risks and benefits of the top supplements for reversing prediabetes. 

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Can Supplements Reverse Prediabetes? 

Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels are elevated but are not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes

Extensive research shows that diet and lifestyle changes should be the first-line treatment for reversing prediabetes.

These include eating high-fiber meals and exercising regularly. 

Though more research is needed, preliminary studies have identified specific supplements that may help reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance to treat prediabetes.

What to Know Before Starting Supplements 

When considering supplements for reversing prediabetes, know that these should not replace a healthy diet and lifestyle but may be beneficial in addition to these habits. 

It’s also important to understand that dietary supplements have different regulation standards than medications do in the United States.

To ensure you select a high-quality supplement, look for certification of third-party quality testing on the label. These include:

  • NSF.
  • ConsumerLab.
  • USP.

The good news is there are many high-quality supplement brands on the market.

Discussing with your doctor can help you determine which supplements are safe for you. 

7 Essential Supplements to Consider for Prediabetes  

Below is a comprehensive guide on the top seven supplements for managing prediabetes. 

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in foods and supplements.

Because it plays a role in blood glucose (sugar) management, magnesium has been studied for its potential role in diabetes prevention. 

Benefits 

Research shows that people who eat more magnesium-rich foods have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Many people do not get enough magnesium in their diets, making this an important micronutrient to be aware of. 

A systematic review from 2021 found that magnesium supplements improved blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in people who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Risks 

Magnesium has a laxative effect and can sometimes cause diarrhea, nausea, and cramping when taken in high doses. The tolerable upper intake of supplemental magnesium for adults is 350 mg. 

Very high doses over 5,000 mg can result in magnesium toxicity, which can cause serious side effects, including cardiac arrest. 

Food Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium is found naturally in foods including: 

  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Chia seeds. 
  • Almonds.
  • Spinach. 
  • Shredded wheat cereal.
  • Soy milk. 
  • Black beans. 

2. Vitamin D 

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a fat-soluble vitamin with many functions that contribute to bone health, immune function, and glucose metabolism. 

Benefits

People with vitamin D deficiencies have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, making this an exciting topic for research on reversing prediabetes.

Low vitamin D levels are common, especially among older adults, people with dark skin, and those who don’t get much sun exposure.

Your doctor can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. 

Research shows that people with prediabetes who took a supplement containing at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day had a lower risk of diabetes.

Other studies have shown no impact on blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and diabetes risk, indicating the need for further research. 

Risks

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, excessive intake of this micronutrient from supplements is stored in your body fat, increasing your risk of vitamin D toxicity. 

Possible symptoms of this include digestive symptoms, like nausea and vomiting, and in severe cases, kidney failure and heart problems. 

The upper limit for vitamin D supplements in adults is 4,000 IU per day. 

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Food Sources of Vitamin D 

Not many foods are natural sources of vitamin D, but several foods in the US are fortified with it. Common sources include: 

  • Trout. 
  • Salmon.
  • Mushrooms exposed to UV light (this will be indicated on the package).
  • Cows milk fortified with vitamin D.
  • Non-dairy milk fortified with vitamin D.
  • Breakfast cereal fortified with vitamin D. 
  • Sardines. 
  • Egg yolks.  

Your skin can also make vitamin D after exposure to sunlight (UV rays).

3. Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is a compound involved in energy metabolism.

Researchers are studying its supplement form because of its possible antioxidant effects and benefits on blood sugar management. 

Benefits

A small study from 2019 found that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation did not improve blood sugar levels, but it did reduce fasting serum insulin levels in people with prediabetes.

This suggests that alpha-lipoic acid may help improve insulin sensitivity. 

Some research also shows that alpha-lipoic acid may improve cholesterol levels, but other studies have not replicated these results. 

Risks

Oral alpha-lipoic acid supplements are generally considered to be safe for most people. However, some individuals may experience side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Acid reflux.
  • Headache. 

Alpha-lipoic acid can also be administered intravenously, but high doses of this are thought to be unsafe. 

Food Sources of Alpha-Lipoic Acid 

Though alpha-lipoic acid is primarily synthesized in your body, a small amount of it is found in certain foods, such as: 

  • Spinach.
  • Broccoli.
  • Red meat. 
  • Liver. 

4. Chromium

Chromium is a trace mineral involved in many metabolic processes, including insulin function.

Because a chromium deficiency can contribute to elevated blood sugar levels, researchers have examined chromium supplements as a possible treatment for prediabetes and diabetes. 

Benefits

Some research suggests that chromium supplements can improve insulin resistance, fasting blood sugar levels, and A1c. 

An older 2015 study found that adults who took multivitamins that included chromium had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Risks

In small doses, chromium can cause an upset stomach and bloating.

However, large doses of chromium can be unsafe, as these have been linked to possible kidney and liver damage. 

No upper limit has been established for chromium, but most people need around 25-35 mcg of this trace mineral daily. 

Food Sources of Chromium 

Chromium is widely found in foods, but the amount of chromium present greatly depends on how the food is grown and processed.

Top food sources of chromium include: 

  • Ham.
  • Whole wheat English muffin.
  • Brewer’s yeast. 
  • Orange juice.
  • Beef.
  • Lettuce. 
  • Turkey breast.

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon, a popular spice, is also available in supplement form.

Researchers are studying how spices like cinnamon might affect diabetes prevention and treatment. 

Benefits

Research shows that cinnamon supplements may improve insulin resistance and blood sugar levels in people with prediabetes.

Though this is promising, more studies are needed to determine the proper dosage and protocols to utilize cinnamon as a diabetes prevention supplement.

Risks

Cinnamon supplements are generally safe at doses under 6 grams daily. Cinnamon contains a compound that is linked to liver disease.

People who already have this condition should be cautious about taking cinnamon supplements. 

Food Sources of Cinnamon

You can enjoy cinnamon as a spice in many foods, like oatmeal, baked goods, curries, tea, and more. 

6. Berberine

Berberine is a compound found in certain plants used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat health concerns, from infections to diabetes. 

Benefits

Some research on type 2 diabetes shows that berberine supplements may improve insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol markers.

Few studies exist on the benefits of berberine for diabetes prevention.  

A small study from 2023 found that berberine supplementation significantly decreased fasting glucose levels, A1c, and oral glucose tolerance test results in people with prediabetes.

Larger scale trials are necessary to examine this connection further. 

Risks

Supplemental berberine doses between 200 mg and 1,000 mg up to three times per day are generally safe.

Some people may experience digestive symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Bloating.
  • Nausea. 

Berberine can interact with certain medications, so review your medication and supplement list with your doctor before starting. The time it takes to see results with this supplement varies from person to person.

Berberine supplements are unsafe in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Food Sources of Berberine 

The plants that naturally contain berberine are not generally consumed in culinary settings.

Berberine is extracted from these plants to make herbal preparations or supplements. 

7. Probiotics

Probiotics are strains of bacteria that are linked with improvements in gut health as well as other benefits.

Research shows that a healthy gut microbiome may improve insulin function and blood sugar regulation.

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Benefits

A 2022 meta-analysis found that probiotic supplements improved A1c, triglycerides, and cholesterol markers in people with prediabetes.

The probiotics did not impact fasting blood sugar levels. 

A small 2023 study on probiotics and prediabetes found that participants had lower body weight, A1c, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels after three months but no improvement in insulin resistance. 

Risks 

Common probiotic strains, including those from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, are considered safe in the general population. Some people may experience mild digestive side effects. 

Immunocompromised people should take caution with probiotic supplements, as they have been linked with bacterial infections in this population. 

Food Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics can be found in many fermented foods, including: 

  • Yogurt. 
  • Kefir. 
  • Sauerkraut. 
  • Kimchi. 
  • Kombucha. 

However, the live microorganisms present in these foods may not survive commercial processing or the digestive process once consumed.

Because of this, fermented foods are not always a reliable source of probiotics. 

Talk to Your Provider Before Taking Supplements

It’s essential to discuss any supplements you are considering with your doctor before starting them.

Some supplements can cause health risks if taken by people with certain medical conditions.

Other supplements can interact with medications or each other, making them less effective. 

Your doctor can review your medical history, medication list, and health goals and help you identify which supplements may be appropriate for treating prediabetes. 

Takeaway

Promising studies have shown that specific supplements, like berberine, magnesium, and probiotics, can help treat prediabetes by reducing fasting blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and A1c.

However, many studies have had conflicting results. 

Additionally, some of these supplements can cause side effects and health risks, especially at higher doses.

More research is needed to understand the benefit of supplements on diabetes prevention as well as proper dosing.

How a Dietitian Can Help

Navigating diabetes prevention can feel overwhelming.

A registered dietitian can help you build healthy diet and lifestyle habits to improve your blood sugar and A1c levels. 

Additionally, a dietitian can assess your diet for gaps in nutrients and recommend supplements that may be helpful for prediabetes, like vitamin D and magnesium. 

Find a dietitian specializing in prediabetes to get started on your journey to better health. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best supplement for prediabetes?

Though more studies are needed, preliminary research shows that certain dietary supplements may help treat prediabetes. These include: 

  • Berberine. 
  • Cinnamon. 
  • Magnesium.
  • Vitamin D.
  • Chromium.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid.
  • Probiotics

Talk to your doctor about safety considerations and the proper dosage if you’re considering taking supplements for prediabetes. Supplements should not be a replacement for healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

What is the fastest way to fix prediabetes?

Diet and lifestyle changes are the first-line treatment for prediabetes. These include: 

  • Eating more fiber.
  • Reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. 
  • Exercising regularly. 
  • Sleeping well. 
  • Managing stress.
  • Managing weight. 

In some cases, specific dietary supplements may be beneficial for preventing diabetes in addition to diet and lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about whether supplements like berberine or probiotics may be right for you.

What is the best natural supplement to lower blood sugar?

Some research shows that certain dietary supplements may help lower blood sugar levels and help manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

More high-quality studies are needed to identify proper dosage and safety precautions. The following supplements have been studied for blood sugar management. 

  • Berberine. 
  • Cinnamon. 
  • Magnesium.
  • Chromium.

Remember that “natural” does not always equal safe. Talk with your healthcare team before starting any dietary supplements, as some can interact with medications and other supplements or have health risks.

References

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