Vitamins and Minerals for Patients with Diabetes

Most patients with diabetes generally do not require routine vitamin and mineral supplementation, just like the rest of the population. However, based on the published medical literature, it would appear that some degree of supplementation with certain vitamins (e.g., vitamins C and E) and minerals (e.g., magnesium) may be worthwhile and become more commonly recommended in the future. The role of vitamins and minerals in controlling blood glucose levels in the patients with diabetes also is discussed.

American consumers are becoming more health conscious, especially about their diet. For years they have felt the need for more and better nutrients to supplement the foods they eat. Thus, consumers spend approximately $3 billion a year on vitamin and nutritional products. Because of this trend, certain products are marketed to ensure consumption or are marketed in such a way as to create confusion. Certain patient groups (e.g., patients with diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, or arthritis) are particularly vulnerable to such advertising because of the various information they read and hear in the media about the relationship between vitamins and minerals and their specific disorder.

Some of these vitamins and minerals are toxic if consumed in large quantities. Thus, the National Research Council has established recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for these products. The RDA value is an estimate of the amount of vitamin or mineral that is required to meet the daily nutritional needs of the majority of individuals. These RDA values should be used as a guide in selecting vitamin and mineral supplements. There is no proof that quantities above these values are more effective, and they often can actually be toxic.

We know that patients with diabetes mellitus have specific nutritional needs to maintain glycemic control that are different from the nutritional needs of the general population. But what about the vitamin and mineral needs of patients with diabetes? The American Diabetes Association position statement on this issue is:

“Vitamins and minerals should meet the recommended requirements for health. There is no evidence unique to the patient with diabetes to warrant supplementation of vitamin and mineral intake unless the patient is on a very low-calorie diet or other special circumstances exist. Calcium supplements may be necessary under special circumstances.”

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Reprinted in part with permission. Originally published in The Diabetes Educator, September/October 1992.

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