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The #1 Best Supplement for Diabetes, Says Dietitian

This can be taken along with a healthy diet to help improve blood sugar levels.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

There are four major areas that influence your diabetes—nutrition, exercise, medications, and stress. Without paying attention to these four areas, it may be really challenging to effectively manage blood sugar levels long term.

However, if you are already paying good attention to these, and you want that extra leg-up in blood sugar management, there may be supplements that can help.

One supplement in particular that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is inositol.

Read on, and for more tips on managing diabetes, check out 5 Worst Breads to Eat for Blood Sugar, Says Dietitian.

What is Inositol?

inositol capsules
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There is evidence to suggest that inositol helps insulin work more effectively—increasing insulin sensitivity. Many doctors prescribe it for insulin resistant conditions like PCOS, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Some call it a B vitamin, but it is technically not a vitamin at all. It's a type of carbohydrate that can be found in foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, and some fruits. The supplement helps you effectively take a larger dose at once than you may be able to find in your daily meals.

What is insulin resistance?

Inositol has been associated with improved insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a phenomenon that occurs when the body has produced too much of this hormone, and our cells stop responding to insulin as quickly.

Typically, after eating carbohydrates, our body produces insulin in response to the natural rise in blood glucose. However, if blood sugar has been consistently elevated, the body will produce more and more insulin to help bring blood sugar down.

Insulin works at the cellular level to let glucose into our cells and aids in using glucose for fuel. This is good news! We need insulin to survive, to feel energized, and use our food for fuel each day.

However, in the case of insulin resistance, the cells stop responding to insulin because it is always around. Thus, blood sugar cannot enter the cell or be used for energy. We end up with more blood glucose and insulin in our bloodstream as a result.

This is the mechanism in which inositol assists blood sugar management in type 2 diabetes. Inositol decreases glucose absorption in the intestines, which lowers blood sugar. It has been shown to decrease the amount of insulin in the bloodstream, effectively decreasing insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity.

Considerations for your health

Inositol supplementation is not recommended for all types of diabetes. It has primarily been studied in individuals with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

As always, discuss medication interactions and side effects with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Some cases of overuse have experienced low blood sugar; you may be advised against this supplement if that is the case.

Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more