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Vitamins & Minerals

Who Needs Them?
Vitamins and minerals are found naturally in food and are also sold in the form of supplements. They are involved in a wide range of vital body functions. They do not provide calories or require insulin to be metabolized (broken down). The 1999 guidelines from the American Diabetes Association indicate there is usually no need to take supplement forms of vitamins and minerals when the dietary intake is adequate. The American Dietetic Association suggests eating a wide variety of foods to best obtain essential nutrients.

Though most healthy people do not require supplements, the American Dietetic Association identifies situations when they may be helpful. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding may need an iron supplement. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need extra iron, folic acid and calcium. Menopausal women may need supplements of calcium to get in the full day requirement. People eating very low calorie diets may not eat enough food to get all the nutrients needed. Strict vegetarians could be lacking in calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin B 12 and D. People with limited milk intake and sunlight exposure may lack vitamin D. Anyone who is unable or unwilling to get a balanced diet probably should take a dietary supplement.

Often, people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes have been in a state of under-nutrition because insulin was not working within the body. If there were symptoms of increased urination and thirst, it is quite possible that water-soluble vitamins also were flushed out through the kidneys along with the extra glucose. Occasionally there are complaints of muscle cramping when the blood sugar normalizes. This latter complaint can be related to a mineral imbalance within the body. A balanced multiple vitamin geared for the age of the child or adult seems prudent. Chromium, magnesium and potassium are included in most multiple vitamins that have minerals included.

There is currently a vast amount of information about the advantages of taking certain vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A (beta-carotene) for prevention of heart disease. Other data suggests that minerals such as chromium, magnesium and vanadium are helpful in controlling blood sugars. However, we are still learning about these vitamins and minerals, so it is too soon to recommend that you take them as supplements in addition to a daily multi-vitamin/mineral tablet.

For those that choose to supplement, a balanced, multiple vitamin/mineral is a wise choice. It is not advisable to take separate vitamins or doses greater than 100% of the Recommended Daily Value (this information is included on the vitamin bottle's label) or replace prescribed medications with supplements without consulting with your doctor or diabetes team first.

Toxicity can result from high doses of some single nutrients and to date, none of the supplements have proven to be an effective replacement for prescription medications. It is important to talk with your doctor to find out if you are lacking in specific nutrients before you begin taking any type of supplement.