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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Supplement use benefits diabetics

A new study shows a positive correlation between dietary supplement use and health in diabetics. The study, commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance and conducted by The Lewin Group, is based on both a focused review of existing research and an analysis of data from the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination survey.

Diabetes is closely linked to nutrition, and the disease has become the fifth-leading cause of death in this country, affecting 16.7 million people, or just more than 8 percent of the population, according to the study. Diabetics are also at significantly higher risk than the general population for heart disease, kidney failure and extremity amputation.

The study's goals were threefold: to determine whether dietary supplements are associated with better health among the general population, to create a profile of people with diabetes who use supplements, and to determine whether diabetics who use supplements manage their condition differently than diabetics who do not use them.

Jon Benninger, president of the DSEA board, said, "We weren't surprised to find that people who have diabetes and use dietary supplements report they're in better health than those who don't use dietary supplements. We controlled for variables, so we're confident in this result."

The supplements that diabetics reported they used most included chromium, zinc, calcium, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. While many of these supplements support general health, others have been linked specifically to diabetes care. For example, studies have shown that chromium picolinate helps insulin function more effectively in the body, which in turn helps regulate blood glucose levels—a critical component of diabetes management. A 2004 study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, showed that diabetics have lower levels of chromium in the body than nondiabetics. Omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-lipoic acids and magnesium have also shown promise in managing glucose levels and alleviating neuropathic symptoms associated with diabetes.

According to the new study, only 34 percent of diabetics currently take supplements. However, of those who use supplements regularly, a higher percentage report to be in good, very good or excellent health (54.1 percent) compared with nonsupplements users (43.2 percent). The study concluded, "Use of dietary supplements is significantly associated with reporting oneself to be in better health than a year ago."

Founded in 2001 by manufacturers and others in the dietary supplements industry, DSEA provides information about supplements to consumers, the media, health professionals and policymakers.

"This study provides additional evidence and data to protect our industry and demonstrate to legislators and the media that dietary supplements are not only a legitimate part of the health care system, but have great potential to be part of the solution to the health care woes this country is facing," Benninger said.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 9/p. 1

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