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Understanding Nutritional Supplements

Supplements can't take the place of a healthy diet.

At the same time, any nutrient may be deficient and require supplementation.

This Weight Loss Work Shop article hopefully will be invaluable to you in taking some of the mystery off the sometimes confusing and even controverial subject of nutritional supplements. This article covers some of the most promising supplements.

Alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid has been used for over 30 years in Europe to help regulate glucose levels, protect against heart disease, treat diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy.

Alpha lipoic acid has also been used for decades to protect the liver and detoxify the body, an important part of care for diabetics.

Alpha lipoic acid enhances vitamins C and E in their role as free radical scavengers. It has been reported to be a more powerful free radical scavenger than grape seed extract or picnoginol.

Note: Also use vitamin B12 when supplementing alpha lipoic acid because it has been reported that B12 deficient individuals may experience a slightly increased nerve irritation with only alpha lipoic acid.


Chromium increases the ability of the cells to utilize insulin. It is an essential trace element required for normal insulin functioning and fat metabolism. Chromium deficiency is associated with high blood glucose and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Within the past 5 years, chromium supplementation has been shown to improve glucose metabolism in type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Refined grains and sugar require chromium for digestion, and their consumption leads to a deficiency. In addition, the petroleum-based fertilizer commonly used when growing crops destroys chromium.

Vitamin B complex

Vitamin B complex is necessary for health and most B vitamins are easily destroyed by heating (cooking), preservatives, etc.

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3(niacin or niacinamide) has been shown to help halt organ damage caused by diabetes mellitus, and if given early to type 1 diabetics, it may help halt autoimmune disorders.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been reported that it may help type 2 diabetics. However, B6 is essential in many body functions, including the synthesis of most non-essential amino acids.

Vitamin B12

B12 (cobalamin) deficiency is well reported to cause neuropathy. The neuropathy caused by B12 deficiency and that of diabetes are clinically very similar.

Note: No single B vitamin, such as B12, is ever found in nature without the rest of the B complex (B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, etc.), so when taking orthomolecular doses of a single vitamin, such as B12, always support with the rest of the complex. The same is true of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, vitamin E and selenium, etc.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for most bodily functions and the repair of body tissue. Studies have reported that diabetics have a 50% reduction in vitamin C, and that supplementation of 1,000 mg daily lowered the glucose concentrations in tissues.

It is thought vitamin C competes with glucose binding sites, thereby reducing the complications of diabetes and delaying the aging process.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has also been reported to compete with glucose for binding sites, thus lessening diabetic complications. Several reports advise that in today’s polluted environment much vitamin E is lost, resulting in the need for supplementation to maintain overall health. Doses exceeding 1000 mg daily have been reported to eliminate the need for insulin in some type 2 diabetics.

Note: For general health, people often supplement fish oil (N-3-Polyunsaturated fatty acid [PUFAs] or omega-3), an essential fatty acid, necessary for many bodily functions. Large doses have been shown to interfere with glucose metabolism. However, vitamin E supplementation has been shown to counteract the glucose increase caused by fish oil.


Magnesium (Mg) is necessary for insulin production and utilization. According to Cecil’s Textbook of Medicine (20th edition, Vol. 2), magnesium plays a crucial role in storing and utilizing energy, since all enzymatic reactions require this essential mineral. Although magnesium is found in chlorophyll, an essential element for plants, the average dietary intake of this essential element only marginally meets our minimum daily requirements. Fast foods are found to be very low in chlorophyll and, in turn, magnesium.

Note: Calcium should be supplemented with magnesium at a ratio of 2:1 (2 mg of calcium for each 1 mg of magnesium)


Zinc plays a key role in the regulation of insulin production by the islet cells and glucose utilization by muscle and fat cells. The abilities to synthesize and secrete insulin and to use glucose, are impaired in the zinc-deficient state. Intestinal zinc absorption and plasma zinc levels are reduced in diabetic patients.

Caution: Since zinc and copper compete for the same binding sites, care should be taken to avoid supplementing too much zinc. Most authorities agree that a dose of 50 mg of zinc daily is adequate and does not interfere with copper, which is found in extremely trace amounts, but is essential for the red blood cell production.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10, ubiquinone) was first isolated in a study at the University of Wisconsin, and found to be essential for normal cardiac muscle strength. It was later discovered to be essential for all cells of the body. It is required for energy at the cellular level and is intimately involved in carbohydrate metabolism.

Studies have shown that diabetic patients have a deficiency in Co-Q10.

In addition, regardless of the type of heart problem, research over the past 30 years has consistently shown that at least 80% of heart patients improve dramatically when supplemented with Co-Q10.


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