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What Vitamins Should People With Diabetes Avoid?

Published on
Updated on
What Vitamins Should People With Diabetes Avoid?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Some vitamins can cause side effects that interfere with diabetes management, like high or low blood sugar.
  • Consider consulting with a healthcare provider before taking a new vitamin or supplement, like vitamin E, chromium, St. John’s wort, or niacin.
  • Unless you have a vitamin deficiency, eating a well-rounded, balanced diet is the best way to meet your vitamin and mineral needs. 

Vitamin supplements can help people with deficiencies get the nutrients their bodies need.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), most Americans are deficient in vitamins D and B12 as well as calcium and iron.

People with diabetes who take certain medications, like metformin, may also be deficient in vitamin B12 and folic acid.

If you’re concerned about a vitamin deficiency, talk to a healthcare provider about testing.

Otherwise, there are some supplements you may want to avoid taking if you have diabetes.

If you don’t have a vitamin deficiency, working with a registered diabetes dietitian can help you to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements by eating a balanced diet.

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What Vitamins Should People with Diabetes Avoid?

When assessing your vitamin needs, it’s important to consider your individual health history and diabetes management plan.

Below are some factors to consider when taking supplements with diabetes.

Vitamin E

Some people with diabetes have been found to have lower levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E.

Vitamin E is an essential vitamin that supports the immune system and widen blood vessels to prevent blood clots. 

Some research shows that short-term interventions of vitamin E supplementation in people with diabetes may lower fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels.

However, vitamin E supplementation can increase the risk of bleeding in people with diabetes who use blood thinning medications like warfarin.

If you’re considering taking vitamin E supplementation consult with a healthcare provider about its safety and potential efficacy for you.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an over-the-counter (OTC) herbal supplement used to treat depression.

Some research suggests that it may be effective at reducing blood sugar levels and increasing insulin secretion in healthy adults, but the evidence is mixed.

One small study found no changes in insulin sensitivity in subjects taking the supplement but did find evidence of impaired insulin secretion, possibly linking use of the supplement with the development of diabetes.

Additional research suggests that the supplement may increase the risk of bleeding in people who take blood thinners, similar to the risks associated with vitamin E supplementation.

Chromium

Chromium is an essential nutrient that influences insulin action in the body.

Though there are no definitive reports of chromium deficiencies in healthy populations, scientists have studied whether or not chromium supplementation can impact glucose tolerance in people with and without diabetes.

Unfortunately, the results of existing studies are inconclusive. 

One review from 2019 looked at the data of 58 clinical trials and found that chromium supplementation, when used in addition to other treatments, lowered fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c levels slightly in people with diabetes.

However, the clinical significance of these results remains unclear.

For this reason, the ADA’s statement from 2014 says that there isn’t sufficient evidence to support the use of chromium in people with diabetes. 

Importantly, people with kidney disease should steer clear of chromium supplements, as they can damage kidney health and negatively impact the disease. 

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Niacin

Some people take niacin supplements to help increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Higher levels of HDL cholesterol, also referred to as “good cholesterol,” are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.

And while niacin can increase HDL levels, it has not been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. 

In addition, niacin may interfere with diabetes management by increasing blood sugar levels.

If you’re considering taking niacin supplements to increase your HDL cholesterol levels, speak with a healthcare provider first to determine whether or not it's safe for you.  

If you need support building a meal plan to manage your health, Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian specialized in diabetes management. For help optimizing your diet, consider booking a virtual appointment today.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Taking Certain Vitamins

Vitamins, like all supplements, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Because they’re not regulated like other medicines, no vitamin is 100% risk-free. 

For people with diabetes, there are some common potential risks and side effects of vitamin use, depending on the type you’re taking.

These include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
  • Increased risk of bleeding (if you’re taking a blood thinning medication).

Depending on your health and diabetes management, some vitamins may or may not be safe to take.

It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin or supplement.

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Tips for Choosing the Right Vitamins for People with Diabetes

Research suggests that some people with diabetes may be deficient in vitamins A, B1, C, and E.

People who take metformin to manage their diabetes may also have lower levels of folic acid and B12.

If you’re taking metformin, talk to your healthcare provider about whether folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation is right for you.

Many people with type 2 diabetes may also have low levels of magnesium (though magnesium deficiency can also occur in people with type 1 diabetes).

Magnesium is an important mineral found in many foods that supports several functions in the body, including blood sugar control and regulation.

Some research shows that short-term magnesium supplementation can reduce fasting blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol levels, improving insulin resistance and glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. 

In the case of most other vitamins, evidence of their effectiveness for people with diabetes is mixed, which is why consulting with a healthcare provider is recommended before starting a new vitamin or supplement. 

Incorporating Whole Foods Over Supplements

Vitamins and minerals are best absorbed through food, which is why eating a diverse range of whole foods is the most effective way for most people to meet their nutrition needs.

Unless you have a true vitamin deficiency, incorporating whole foods into your diet is recommended over taking supplements.

Takeaway

Some people with diabetes may benefit from taking vitamin B12, folic acid, or magnesium.

Otherwise, the evidence of vitamin use in people with diabetes is mixed.

If you’re concerned about a vitamin deficiency, talk with a healthcare provider about testing.

It’s also important to consult with your provider before starting a new vitamin or supplement, since some can interfere with your diabetes management and cause unwanted side effects. 

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How a Dietitian Can Help

Working with a registered diabetes dietitian can help you to build a personalized and healthy meal plan to manage your diabetes and ensure that you’re eating a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. 

Find a dietitian near you and get started for as little as $0.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best vitamin for a person with diabetes? 

Some people with diabetes who take metformin may benefit from vitamin B12 or folic acid supplementation.

There is also some evidence to support taking magnesium to help lower blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol levels.

Otherwise, the evidence for vitamin use in people with diabetes is mixed.

If you’re curious about starting a new vitamin or supplement, consult with your healthcare provider first.

What vitamins and minerals should a person with diabetes avoid?

There are some vitamins and minerals that can cause unwanted side effects in people with diabetes, including vitamin E, St. John’s wort, chromium, niacin.

What vitamins spike blood sugars?

Niacin may raise blood sugar levels.

If you have diabetes, consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new vitamin or supplement.

References

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Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

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