Managing your blood sugar with diabetes can be difficult, time consuming, and stressful. But what if there were natural ways to keep your blood sugar in check, as well as to treat complications that can arise from this disease? Antioxidants, it turns out, are especially effective at treating diabetes, as there is a well-established association between oxidative damage and insulin resistance.
Insulin, produced by the beta cells in the pancreas, allows glucose to be taken up from the blood and stored in cells to be used as energy. One of the best antioxidants for diabetes care is alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which helps to preserve beta cells, enhancing insulin secretion and promoting glucose uptake. Further, it has the ability to prevent complications of the disease like diabetic neuropathy. Adding an ALA supplement to your treatment plan might just be the tool you need to keep your diabetes under control.
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Antioxidants and diabetes
Oxidative damage, or the formation of dangerous free radicals, is a hallmark of diabetes. Free radicals can damage parts of the cell, and in diabetes this can mean damage to beta cells (which produce insulin) as well as insulin receptors and other structures important for managing blood sugar.[1,2] Because of this, antioxidants can be very effective at treating many of the problems at the root of diabetes.
Benefits of ALA
While there are many available antioxidants, and many have been tested for their use with diabetes treatment, ALA may be one of the best. ALA is a powerful antioxidant, but it also is a metal chelator, helps the action of other antioxidants, and can modulate many signaling pathways in the cell.
ALA specifically modulates the insulin signaling pathway. It helps to improve insulin functioning and increases glucose transport into cells through various mechanisms. For example, ALA interacts with insulin receptors, stimulating their activity in addition to protecting them from oxidative damage.[1,2]
Most importantly, ALA effectively keeps blood sugar low. A recent study found that 300 mg ALA daily leads to decreased blood sugar without adverse effects in patients with type 2 diabetes. These results have been repeated by many other researchers.[4,5]
ALA treats complications of diabetes
But ALA does more than just regulate blood sugar. It can also help to prevent and treat complications of diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy.[4,6] Diabetic neuropathy presents symptoms like weakness, burning, pain, and numbness in the hands and feet.
Treatment with ALA for 21 days also improved markers of cardiovascular disease risk, such as the functioning of blood vessel walls and levels of LDL cholesterol.
ALA is well tolerated and generally produces little or no side effects at doses below 1,200 mg per day. Most studies find that a dose of between 300 and 600 mg per day is effective at lowering blood sugar and treating complications of diabetes.[1,6] Take ALA 30 minutes before meals to be most effective. Foods rich in ALA include many vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, and tomato) as well as meats.
Share your experience
What natural treatments do you use to manage diabetes? Have you ever used an ALA supplement? Share your experience in the comments section below.