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September 12, 2003

Alternative Therapies and Explanations

Question from Ontario, Canada:

My eight year old daughter has had type 1 diabetes for less than two years now, and requires two injections (possibly a third at bedtime, if her sugar is more than 7.0 mmol/L [126 mg/dl]) per day, and for the most part her sugar levels are good. She is taking a children's chewable vitamin daily, but is there something else you can recommend that will help her fight off any complications? Any vitamins that can help her?


There have been studies which claim some benefit for products like Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Coenzyme Q10, Evening Primrose Oil, and Vitamins E and C as helping to prevent the complications of diabetes and you could evaluate these in greater depth by searching in PubMed. In addition, supplements that are said to improve blood sugar levels include fenugreek, gymnema sylvestre, ginseng, chromium picolinate, zinc, vanadium, and a number of others.

However, whilst these items may be of genuine value as placebos, there is really no evidence at all that they have a place in the routine management of type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes. What is important is to work with your daughter’s diabetes care team to take advantage of new insulins (like Lantus, Humalog, or NovoLog), new dev1ces for measuring blood sugar with less discomfort (Alternate Site Testing) and for interpreting the results as in the Palm Pilot programs, and to try to maintain an hemoglobin A1c below 6.5%. With good fortune, the advances in transplantation (see Islet Cell Transplants at this website, and Pancreas Transplantation at the Diabetes Monitor) and in developing an insulin pump linked reliably to blood sugar sensors, will spare your daughter much of the burden of diabetes.


[Editor’s comment: See Complementary and Alternative Medicine.