High blood sugar levels, if left untreated, can lead to a whole host of serious health conditions. Here’s how to keep them under control.
Did you know that by 2025 it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes? According to Diabetes UK most of these cases will be type 2 diabetes, because of our ageing population and rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese people.
For people with diabetes, controlling the body’s blood sugar levels is essential. Our blood sugar levels denote the amount of glucose (sugar) that is present in our blood. Ordinarily our blood sugar levels remain within narrow limits throughout the day
– approximately 4 to 8mmol/l. They tend to be at their lowest in the morning and increase when we eat.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) occur when the body either can’t make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or can’t properly respond to insulin (type 2 diabetes). If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to damage of the small blood vessels, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems and nerve problems.
It is therefore extremely important to manage your blood sugar levels, in order to minimise your risk of developing these complications. Let’s take a look at some natural ingredients that can help with this.
This fragrant spice is an antioxidant powerhouse, with an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity) score of 267,536. Research has shown that cinnamon helps to reduce haemoglobin A1C levels, which relate directly to blood sugar levels. As blood sugar levels are reduced, the damage to arteries is also reduced. Evidence has shown that intakes of 1, 3 or 6g of cinnamon per day can reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.2
A number of studies have shown that American ginseng can help to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the effect was noted both with fasting blood sugar and postprandial (after eating) glucose levels. The Center quotes one study which discovered that people with type 2 diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar drink experienced less of an increase in blood glucose levels.
Bitter melon, which is also known as bitter gourd or karela, is used as a vegetable in India and other Asian countries and as an ingredient in certain curries. It is known to contain several compounds, including charantin and polypeptide-p, which have
a blood glucose-lowering effect. A 2008 study found that bitter melon increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance,4 while a 2011 study showed that a 2,000mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that chromium supplements may help to reduce blood sugar levels as well as the amount of insulin needed by people with diabetes. The University of Maryland Medical Center cites a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which people with type 2 diabetes who took chromium picolinate had better HbA1c values (used to measure long-term control of blood sugar levels) than those who took a placebo. The group taking chromium also had better fasting blood glucose levels, a measure of short-term control of blood sugar levels. The Center also quotes a study whereby women who had diabetes as a result of being pregnant improved their blood sugar control when they took chromium.
Fenugreek seeds are a key ingredient in curries and have also been found to have medicinal benefits. They are high in soluble fibre, which helps to lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. One study found that when a daily dose of 100g of defatted fenugreek seed powder was given to patients with insulin-dependent (type
1) diabetes, their fasting blood glucose levels were significantly reduced, their glucose tolerance improved and their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels were all lowered.7
Gymnema or Gymnema Sylvestre is a shrub native to India and Africa with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. The leaves of this plant contain gymnemic acids, which have been shown to slow down the transport of glucose from the intestines
to the bloodstream. This helps to lower blood sugar levels and also haemoglobin A1C. Gymnema is also thought to promote healthy pancreatic cell function. In one study, 27 people with type 1 diabetes were given a daily dose of 400mg of Gymnema sylvestre. After 10 to 12 months, they experienced reductions in their fasting blood sugar levels, haemoglobin A1C and glycosylated plasma protein levels. Their insulin requirements were also reduced.
Nopal, also known as the prickly pear, is a perennial cactus that is found in semi- tropical areas throughout the world. Research suggests that the stems of nopal can be very effective in decreasing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.9 This is thought to be because nopal contains fibre and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestine.
This product contains calcium and chromium, plus a proprietary blend of cinnamon bark extract, gymnema sylvestra extract, bitter melon extract, fenugreek seed extract, coral minerals, American ginseng root extract, nopal cactus (prickly pear) extract and cinnamon powder.