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December 14, 2001

Alternative Therapies and Explanations, Exercise and Sports

Question from Canton, Michigan, USA:

I am an 18 year old male with type�1 diabetes for 13 years, I’ve been bodybuilding for the last year, and I want to get into taking supplements to assist me in my regimen. I’ve talked to my regular endocrinologist who he told me he wasn’t sure about what I can and can’t take. Any feedback would be very much appreciated. I haven’t found anyone educated in this field thus far.


From: DTeam Staff

I’ve had this question asked of me before and here is essentially my generic answer.

Be careful! Even if you didn’t have diabetes, the “supplements” that people advertise for “bulking up” can be dangerous. And the “supplements” that the other body builders give you often have steroids and can be very dangerous -interfering with fertility, cholesterol, and metabolism, among other issues. For the person with diabetes, the problems arise from the fact that these anabolic steroids increase appetite and can lead to insulin resistance and higher glucose readings. The extra protein can be a real load for the kidneys, especially if they already have diabetic changes. Even the protein and creatine supplements tax the kidneys.

Your health care team can’t prevent you from doing this, and it would not work to “forbid” you, but you can learn to make the right choices and find ways to take appropriate precautions — like staying in good glycemic control!

Additional comments from Laura Shane-McWhorter, Pharm.D.:

While, I don’t feel it’s right to tell you what you can and can’t take, I think it would be more appropriate if you asked more specific questions as to what you are is considering taking. Then we could try and provide some answers. I feel it’s inappropriate and unethical to recommend products, especially without knowing more about you such as labs, etc. Furthermore, I think that there are a lot of products that dietitians may want to comment on, such as high protein supplements, etc.

Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

There is not much scientific information available but some common sense suggests the following:

Do not take steroids or growth hormone. Both would have major endocrine problems for you and specifically would likely change your insulin requirements — perhaps also increasing long term cardiovascular risks vis-a-vis blood vessels.
Do not take anything that has added protein since this adds extra burden on kidneys — and kidney problems are one of the major long term complications relating to diabetes.

Everything else you take would be speculative on your part since the scientific benefits remain unproven while the risk are unknown — why add extra risks to your diabetes? If you want to build muscles, work out. If you need extra food and energy, work with your diabetes health care team to be sure you have maximum control of blood glucose levels since this allows muscles to be built up instead of broken down. If you need extra calories, meal plan certainly can and should be adjusted just as insulin doses may need to be decreased.

The Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association may be a good source of information for you. Their phone number is 602 433 2113, and address is 1647 West Bethany Home Road #B, Phoenix AZ 85015 USA.