Supplementation to Lower Blood Sugar

Dietary supplements taken for the purpose of decreasing blood sugar may be popular — after all, more than 9 percent of the American population (29.1 million people) is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes — but research on their safety and efficacy is lacking.

Common and exotic supplements, including cinnamon, chromium, amino acids, herbs and plant extracts, often are touted to reduce hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and stabilize blood sugar “naturally.” They may be taken alone, blended together in hopes of more pronounced results or used in combination with other oral or injectable medications, such as Metformin or insulin.

While there is evidence that certain dietary supplements can decrease blood sugar, many come with potential dangers. Aside from the obvious risk of hypoglycemia, other considerations include interactions with medications, liver problems and gastrointestinal issues. In addition to generally inconclusive research on the safety of dietary supplements for people with diabetes, potential interactions between dietary supplements and diabetes medications have not been well-studied.

Although chromium has been studied in the treatment of hyperglycemia, much of the research on this trace mineral is inconclusive or conflicting. There is some evidence that taking this mineral in the form of chromium picolinate can decrease fasting blood glucose, insulin and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and increase insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes. However, caution should be taken by those with liver problems, weakened immune systems (such as organ transplant recipients), depression, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and patients who are taking medications that lower blood sugar. Chromium can cause toxicity if taken chronically or in excess, which also may occur if taken in combination with other dietary supplements that contain chromium.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a compound that the Natural Medicines Database lists as “possibly effective” in improving insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. In addition, some research has shown alpha-lipoic acid may improve blood sugar levels among individuals with Type 2 diabetes, but evidence remains conflicting and higher-quality studies are needed to provide more definitive recommendations. Note that dietary supplements such as alphalipoic acid and chromium can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Cinnamon is another common supplement used to decrease blood sugar, although researchers have found risks among people with diabetes. Further, no clear benefits have been found. For example, a 2012 systematic review of 10 randomized controlled trial studies did not support the use of cinnamon for Type 2 diabetes. In some people, supplementing with cinnamon may even worsen liver disease and interact with blood thinning medications.

Is Spirulina a Miracle Cure-all?

Arguably the “superfood” of the moment, spirulina is associated with a number of health claims, from curing allergies and candida to detoxifying the body and aiding in weight loss. Does this blue-green algae deliver, or is it all health hype?

As it turns out, these claims are backed by little science and likely surfaced due to spirulina’s impressive nutrient profile. One ounce, or approximately 4 tablespoons, of dried spirulina contains 81 calories, 16 grams of protein, 60 percent of the daily value of riboflavin, 44 percent of the daily value of iron and thiamin, 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium and 11 percent of the daily value of potassium.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists all health claims associated with spirulina as having insufficient evidence to rate, and warns that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid it. There also is some evidence that spirulina could interact with anticoagulant, antiplatelet and immunosuppressant drugs. Due to its high protein content, people with phenylketonuria, or PKU, should not consume spirulina.

After the Natural Medicines monograph was updated in 2015, a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of 40 individuals with hypertension was published in 2016. It found that consuming 2 grams of spirulina for three months led to improved BMI, body weight and blood pressure in this small sample. While spirulina is very protein-dense and these results seem promising, there is not enough information at this time to recommend it as a supplement for specific health conditions.

Due to its growing popularity, spirulina is cultivated in ponds and mass-produced all over the world, including Hawaii and China. Spirulina’s distinctive and strong seaweed flavor leads many people to consume it via capsule, while others mix the powder form into water, juice or smoothies. Contamination by toxins and heavy metals is a serious concern, so it is important to choose a spirulina supplement with reliable third-party testing and quality assurance.

Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, is an associate editor of Food & Nutrition and a dietetics content manager at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Understanding Weight Neutrality

One does not need to go far to find harrowing statistics about obesity. Without even reading statistics on it you could just talk to anyone in the Dallas tuxedo rentals or tuxedo rental in Houston, TX business and they can tell you about how they are having a hard time having enough sizes in stock to be able to supply people with tuxedos that can fit them.

According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, obesity in adults more than doubled over half a century — from 13.4 percent in 1962 to 38.2 percent in 2014 — and the National Bureau of Economic Research reports the estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness to be nearly 21 percent of annual medical spending in the United States.

With links between higher body mass index and increased risk for disease, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, public health messaging to the masses and patient advice from medical practitioners have centered on weight loss as both prevention and treatment for many chronic diseases. However, there isn’t a single therapy (dietary, surgical, pharmaceutical or otherwise) that has been shown to sustain long-term weight-loss maintenance in a significant number of people.

Researchers are only just beginning to understand the myriad factors that affect body weight and body fat, including genetics, hormones, medications, diseases, age, sleep, stress, environmental pollutants, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, dietary quality and physical activity. And some epidemiological studies actually support conflicting theories on body weight and health.

For example, the “Obesity Paradox” refers to the anomaly of some people with BMIs in the overweight and obese categories, especially older adults and even with chronic disease, outliving people with normal BMIs.

“In general, there is a strong relationship between BMI and health outcomes,” says Hollie Raynor, PhD, RD, LDN, obesity researcher and co-author of the Academy’s 2016 position paper on interventions for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults, “but there are individual differences.” Among limitations inherent to epidemiological research, according to Raynor, is that studies correlating body weight and morbidity and mortality may not control for moderating factors affecting disease risk, such as high intake of calorie-rich, low nutrient-dense foods, low intakes of nutrient-dense foods, physical inactivity and smoking.

Other concepts — including “metabolically healthy obesity” (individuals with BMIs of 30 or higher who have normal blood lipids, blood sugar and insulin levels) and “metabolically obese normal weight” (people with normal BMIs and negative health outcomes) — are countered by a much higher proportion of people with obese BMIs who are not metabolically healthy.

However, it is well recognized in behavioral health research that weight stigma (stereotyping and bias based on one’s size) is associated with increased calorie consumption and binge eating, negative body image, depression, greater likelihood of becoming obese, and reduced desire to engage in healthy behaviors.

Other studies suggest that a focus on weight in health care settings may increase false positives and negatives. For instance, if physicians look for certain diseases in patients with overweight or obese BMIs but not in individuals with normal BMIs, some conditions may be overdiagnosed in larger people or underdiagnosed in smaller people.

According to a 2014 review of unintended harm associated with public health interventions, weight loss messaging is not only ineffective, but actually can promote body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Campaigns centered on healthy behaviors without mention of weight are better received and are more likely to result in healthy behaviors among targets, wrote the authors.

Enter the “weight-neutral” movement: a therapeutic approach to improving the health of individuals by focusing less on BMI, and more on lifestyle behaviors.

“In light of having no validated methods to help more than a small number of people lose weight and keep it off,” says Marci Evans, RD, CEDRD, CPT, who specializes in body image issues and emotional eating, “we need to use tools that will enhance clients’ health at their current weight without causing more harm — remembering to consider long-term harm as well.”

Yogurt consumption in older Irish adults linked with better bone health

The largest observational study to date of dairy intakes and bone and frailty measurements in older adults has found that increased yogurt consumption was associated with a higher hip bone density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis in older women and men on the island of Ireland, after taking into account traditional risk factors.

The largest observational study to date of dairy intakes and bone and frailty measurements in older adults has found that increased yogurt consumption was associated with a higher hip bone density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis in older women and men on the island of Ireland, after taking into account traditional risk factors.

Half Of Women Live In States With Abortion Laws That Contradict Actual Science

The anti-abortion legislators who propose state-level restrictions often argue they are simply promoting and protecting women’s health.

But a new report published this week by the reproductive health advocacy group the Guttmacher Institute highlights the startling extent to which abortion restrictions across the United States fly in the face of evidence about what abortion is and isn’t—and what actually benefits women’s health.

At least 10 of the most popular categories of anti-choice legislation run directly counter to rigorous scientific studies and surveys as well as assertions from some of this country’s major medical organizations, its authors found.

And more than half of women in this country live in states with at least two existing abortion restrictions that conflict with actual scientific evidence, while 30 percent live in states with a whopping five-plus regulations that fly in the face of credible research.

“We firmly believe that sound science matters more than ever in this age of ‘alternative facts,’” Elizabeth Nash, co-author of the report and a senior state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute said in a press release.