Targeted Blood-Sugar Control
A staggering number of Americans suffer from a disorder called “metabolic syndrome” that is characterized by a combination of:1
- High blood sugar
- Increased blood pressure
- Abdominal obesity
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Those with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, type II diabetes and early death.2
A root cause of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance.2,3
This article describes natural substances that work together to promote healthy fasting blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
In the United States there are 86 million adults with prediabetes.4 A substantial number of those with poor glucose control convert to full-blown type II diabetes. Before diabetes is diagnosed, chronically elevated glucose damages tissues throughout the body.
The Power of Prevention
Insulin resistance means the body’s cells cannot respond normally to insulin. That causes blood sugar levels to creep up gradually – entirely without symptoms in most people.
In those with prediabetes or insulin resistance, risk of progression to type II diabetes can be reduced by about 58% with lifestyle interventions, including diet, that lower blood-sugar levels.2 In addition, studies have identified multitargeted nutrients capable of reducing blood glucose via a variety of mechanisms.
Cinnamon Acts on Multiple Glucose Targets
Cinnamon is an effective tool for lowering blood sugar and reducing the risk of type II diabetes.
A water-soluble, oil-free cinnamon extract has been identified that has demonstrated beneficial effects on blood sugar, glycation, and metabolic syndrome.5,6 The US Department of Agriculture filed a patent application on this extract based on its glucose- lowering properties.7,8
One of the primary ways cinnamon impacts blood sugar is by increasing production of GLUT4, a molecule that is responsible for transporting sugar from blood plasma into the cell, which enhances insulin sensitivity and therefore glucose uptake.9-11
Without effective GLUT4 transporters, sugar levels in the blood steadily rise, eventually producing damage to tissues through the chemical reaction known as glycation, in which glucose molecules bind to vital proteins, deleteriously altering both their structure and function.12
Increased production of PPARs is another critical mechanism of some antidiabetic drugs.13 When activated, PPARs promote insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. PPARs also suppress fat accumulation and glucose production.13-15
Clinical trials have shown that cinnamon supplementation boosts insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar.16-20 Cinnamon also helps to induce satiety, the feeling of fullness after a meal that prevents us from overeating.21 Together, these effects have been shown to reduce evidence of long-term glucose overexposure in blood, as measured by hemoglobin A1C, a measure of chronic exposure to sugar.22
Cinnamon has other properties that help combat metabolic syndrome, such as lowering blood pressure and improving body fat distribution.23,24 Cinnamon has also shown that it could reduce disruptions associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the liver manifestation of metabolic syndrome.25,26
Lower Blood Sugar With Chromium
Another nutrient that improves blood-sugar levels and insulin sensitivity is chromium.
Studies show there is a powerful connection between chromium and diabetes. For example, people with diabetes and heart disease are relatively deficient in chromium levels, compared with healthy people. And people with known chromium deficiencies develop symptoms associated with type II diabetes.27-33
Human studies show chromium’s impact on both short- and long-term blood-sugar control. When diabetic patients receive chromium supplements, their fasting blood glucose and insulin levels drop promptly, while their long-term sugar levels improve, as indicated by reductions in hemoglobin A1C.34,35
Unlike glucose-lowering drugs and insulin, chromium poses no danger of producing dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which is a major advance in safety.36,37
Chromium works in multiple ways to boost glucose uptake from the blood.38 It boosts production of GLUT4 transporter molecules, and triggers the GLUT4 movement from the cell’s interior to its membrane—both of which help move glucose out of the blood and into cells.39-42 This has the dual benefit of lowering blood-sugar levels while providing much-needed chemical energy inside cells.
These glucose uptake-promoting properties mean that chromium fights insulin resistance by enhancing the impact of insulin on a cell’s sugar-absorbing capabilities—and that’s a very good thing for anyone with borderline or high blood sugar.
Ancient Remedies Prevent Tissue Damage
While chromium produces outstanding sugar-lowering effects, it is also a highly reactive metal ion that is capable of inducing oxidative stress that could damage tissue. That’s why scientists now recommend that chromium supplements be stabilized with organic compounds that can reduce the oxidative stress and allow chromium’s major benefits to emerge. Two such compounds are amla and shilajit.
In addition to enhancing chromium’s benefits, these two ancient natural remedies have some impressive protective properties of their own that make them a perfect complement to chromium.
Modern science has revealed that amla extracts powerfully oppose oxidative stress of all kinds. Amla protects against glycation of proteins, which helps prevent the damage that otherwise occurs in tissues throughout the body (eye lens and retina, heart muscle, kidney, nerves, and blood vessels).43,44 Amla also directly prevents blood-sugar levels from rising after a starch-containing meal by blocking the enzymes that convert starch into sugar in the intestine.43 This can help to prevent the effects of the occasional carbohydrate overindulgence and may also help address unhealthy fasting blood-sugar levels.
Shilajit is an adaptogen that helps cells and tissues survive oxidative and other stresses.45 Research shows that shilajit promotes efficient glucose “burning” in mitochondria.46
Efficient-running mitochondria produce fewer chemically stressful byproducts, reducing cell damage. Their energy output is also maximal, helping cells to meet their needs.47 And clean-burning mitochondria are less vulnerable to outside oxidative stress.48,49
Studies show that amla and shilajit provide the tissue protection that is not found in many pharmaceutical drugs.50,51
Providing supplemental chromium stabilized with amla and shilajit is an effective, safe way of lowering blood sugar, minimizing glucose-induced tissue damage, and promoting efficient energy production—all of which are known to mitigate prediabetes and diabetes.
Seaweed Regulates Blood Sugar
Seaweed is a sea vegetable that works in many ways to lower blood sugar and help protect against metabolic syndrome.52-55
Like cinnamon and chromium, seaweed increases levels of the glucose-transporting GLUT4, and increases activity of the energy-sensing PPAR system—both of which promote insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.56,57
In addition, sea vegetables are rich in iodine, which plays a role in maintaining insulin sensitivity.58 Animal studies have shown that oral supplementation with iodine reduces glucose levels.59,60 And one recent human study showed that in obese, iodine-deficient women, iodine supplements reduced high cholesterol.61
Many of seaweed’s sugar-lowering effects occur directly in the digestive tract. There, seaweed components block the enzymes needed to release sugar molecules from starch.62-66 As a result, glucose is not released, never contributing to rising blood sugar levels.52
Another important way seaweed extracts help combat insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome is by reducing body weight and fat mass. When obese animals were given seaweed supplementation, it was found to lower blood sugar, diminish food intake, reduce body weight, and slow weight gain.67 One reason for these benefits could be because seaweed contains compounds that have been shown to activate systems that cause fat to be burned off rather than stored in the body.68,69
Seaweed supplementation also reduces the development and maturation of new fat cells, which helps prevent weight gain caused by a high fat diet.70,71 As a result, supplemented animals were exposed to far lower levels of the inflammation-promoting molecules (cytokines) that fat tissue pours out into the circulation.72
More than one-third of Americans have metabolic syndrome, an insulin-resistant state in which borderline high blood sugar and other metabolic abnormalities signal ever-growing risks for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and a host of other age-accelerating conditions.73
Sugar-lowering drugs are not generally prescribed until after a person develops diabetes, which leaves millions of us in a dangerous, prediabetic state without treatment. Natural supplements have long been shown to reduce the risks of metabolic syndrome by lowering blood-sugar levels before they reach dangerous concentrations.
Cinnamon, chromium, amla, shilajit, and seaweed provide sugar-lowering, energy-burning, and fat-reducing properties, and should be considered as a regular part of a healthy supplement regimen.
While diabetics are well aware of the risks of elevated blood sugar, ultimately anyone—even those with normal blood sugar levels—should be keenly interested in maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels.
By Cynthia Williams