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Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar

As the number of U.S. diabetics grow and healthy blood sugar levels decline in recent years, marketers and retailers express their views on market items geared toward lowering blood sugar.

With more than 9 percent of Americans having diabetes, according to recent studies, there have also been links between high blood sugar and other health conditions such as dementia.

While some people can support healthy blood sugar levels with a daily exercise regimen and diet, others need natural cooperation from a good supplement source.

Balancing Sugar Ranges

Retailer Carrie Young, vitamin manager at It’s Only Natural in Middletown, CT, said she receives the best feedback from customers on Nature’s Way Blood Sugar, which helps reduce sugar cravings and stabilizes blood sugar.

And while it’s “nothing new,” Gymnema sylvestre has been getting more publicity, Young said. “More people are asking about it.” Retailer Craig Marquis, vitamin manager at Richard’s Foodporium in Port Charlotte, FL, agreed that gymnema helps to stabilize and support sugar ranges. He also recommends copalchi, bitter melon and cinnamon.

“We talk to people about their diets,” Marquis said. “We recommend paleo diets and fiber. Sometimes customers are on medication or have circulation issues and eyesight problems. We have a lot of wealth of information to help with issues.”

Utah-based RidgeCrest Herbals has a product called Blood Sugar Balance that is designed to help support levels in the normal range, stabilize energy and improve mood and focus.

According to Brittini Gehring, MH, chief botanical officer at RidgeCrest Herbals, Blood Sugar Balance is a simple formula based off an ancient traditional Chinese formula known as white tiger decoction. She said, “This formula has been used to effectively address blood sugar issues from a TCM [traditional Chinese medicine] perspective for many thousands of years. This decoction usually consists of four ingredients including calcined gypsum, non-glutinous rice, anemarrhena root and Chinese licorice root.”

Together, the ingredients work to help clear heat and drain fire in the organs related to blood sugar health. “It also helps with symptoms such as excessive thirst and helps restore blood pH to normal levels,” said Gehring.

Occasionally, that formula is also used with other herbs, such as ginseng, to help provide additional energy support. In the case of RidgeCrest’s formula, it includes eleuthero, which is more of an adaptogen—less of a stimulant—and helps with overall blood support, as well as natural energy and mood and focus benefits.

RidgeCrest Herbals has kept the same historical formula for more than 10 years. And due to the effectiveness of the current product, RidgeCrest Herbals said it has no plans to update or change the formula.

Chromium Regulates Glucose

Of the many specific nutrients that effect blood sugar, chromium is a trace mineral that is probably the most well-known for the specific effect of helping to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood.

Although Rainbow Light in California does not have a condition-specific product formulated solely for blood sugar management, the company’s multivitamins are formulated with carefully selected forms of chromium to allow adequate absorption and contribute to the diet’s effect of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels that are already within a normal range, according to Marci Clow, MS, RDN, at Rainbow Light.

Clow said, “Just like high-quality fuel keeps our cars running smoothly, a healthy diet with a wide variety of nutrients provided by fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will keep our bodies functioning optimally and can certainly impact blood glucose levels. Blood sugar levels can also be impacted by supplemental nutrients, and multivitamins are a fantastic tool for filling in dietary gaps by contributing nutrients that might be missing and could potentially effect blood sugar levels.”

Rainbow Light is part of the Wellnext family of brands, which provide products to support a diverse range of needs throughout various stages of a healthy lifestyle. Of the wide variety of products offered by Wellnext brands, Iceland Health has had many consumers report tremendous success with Iceland Health Chromax Plus—a product specifically formulated for promoting healthy blood sugar, according to Clow. She added, “When considering bioavailability, chromium is somewhat difficult to utilize. Chromax Plus contains two forms of chromium, both studied for favorable effect on blood glucose. Chromium histidinate is speedily absorbed and immediately available for utilization, whereas chromium picolinate is quite slowly utilized for long lasting, comprehensive utilization.”

Iceland Health Chromax Plus provides 250 mcg of each form of chromium, with a suggested use of one capsule per day. The company has just introduced a line extension, Chromax Ultra Strength, which has added biotin and cinnamon extract—both suggested to play a role in glucose metabolism.

While there are many ingredients touted for benefits in promoting healthy blood sugar, Clow said she believes few supplemental ingredients have been researched for their potentially beneficial effects. As far as new ingredients for blood sugar support, she said she hasn’t seen any significant new entries into the category but believe that the following are potentially supportive, but definitely need further evidence.

• Cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon contains compounds that may stimulate insulin receptors and improve insulin sensitivity, according to Clow.

• Bitter Melon. The extract of momordica charantia is traditionally used in cuisines of Asia, India, South America and Africa, but has limited research to support any claims that it helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Clow said, “It is hypothesized that isolated compounds may activate an enzyme that encourages cells to take up blood sugar.”

• Fenugreek. “This medicinal herb has been suggested in a few small trials to help reduce blood sugar in diabetics by slowing absorption of carbohydrate after a meal to improve insulin sensitivity,” Clow said.

• Vitamin D. Low D has been associated with poor blood sugar control, and when combined with calcium, seems to improve insulin sensitivity, according to Clow.

• Magnesium. “This mineral may improve insulin sensitivity,” said Clow. “As it plays a role in transport of glucose into cells.”

• Chromium in combination with biotin. According to Clow, in a study of more than 400 people with poorly controlled blood sugar, chromium picolinate, along with biotin, was suggested to provide better glucose regulation than placebo.

Clow said that there is no magic supplement bullet for supporting healthy blood sugar, but supplements may complement a healthy diet and lifestyle. “Consumers need to understand that food intake causes a blood glucose rise triggering our pancreas to release insulin to allow glucose into the tissues,” she said. “When we skip meals, blood sugar levels drop, which effects mood and tiredness. When we eat foods high in sugar or refined foods with a high glycemic index, blood sugar levels rise and those who consume these foods on a regular basis could potentially be setting themselves up for a decreased effectiveness of insulin.”

Clow also recommended maintaining healthy blood sugar levels by exercising and speaking to a health care practitioner about dose, safety and potential drug interactions.

Magnesium is Essential for Healthy Blood Sugar

Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical advisory board member, Nutritional Magnesium Association, representing Natural Vitality, in Texas, agrees with Clow that magnesium is essential for healthy blood sugar. Magnesium is necessary for the activation and function of 700 to 800 enzyme systems in the body. She said, “It catalyzes most of the chemical reactions in the body. It synthesizes protein; stabilizes RNA and DNA; transmits nerve signals; relaxes muscles, whereas calcium contracts muscles; and it produces and transports energy called ATP.”

Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed in the body, according to Dean. She said, “The amount of magnesium your tissues can readily use is based on the amount of elemental or iconic magnesium that is released. There are several organic salt chelates that are highly absorbable, such as magnesium citrate. Magnesium citrate powder dissolved in water offers a higher rate of absorption than most other forms of magnesium.”

Dean’s advice for providing the best blood sugar support is avoiding simple sugars, a high fiber diet, avoiding gluten and dairy and taking magnesium.

Additionally, magnesium may also prevent and help with acid reflux, adrenal fatigue, angina, anxiety, atrial fibrillation, brain function, high blood pressure, calcium deposits in arteries, cholesterol, constipation, depression, fibromyalgia, headaches, heart attacks, IBS, inflammation, insomnia, kidney stones, migraines, muscle spasms, nerve twitches, PMS, seizures and sports injuries.

Cinnamon for Blood Sugar Issues

Holli Lapes, RD of Life Extension, based in Florida, noted three products that address blood sugar issues—Tri Sugar Shield, CinSulin with InSea2 and Crominex3+.

Tri Sugar Shield contains a combination of three plant-derived nutrients—sorghum bran extract, mulberry leaf extract, and phloridzin. Taken before heavy meals, Tri Sugar Shield can help to support healthy postprandial glucose levels. “For example,” said Lapes, “white mulberry enhances insulin sensitivity by stimulating a cellular transporter called GLUT4 to transport sugar out of the bloodstream.”

The natural ingredients in Tri Sugar Shield act in both an independent and complementary fashion to sequentially block starch digestion at each of its primary stages: the breakdown of starch to disaccharides, the breakdown of disaccharides into simple sugars, and the absorption of simple sugars across the brush border membranes.

CinSulin with InSea2 and Crominex3+ contains a unique combination of clinically validated natural ingredients to help regular and support insulin function and glucose transport and to inhibit carbohydrate digestion, respectively.

CinSulin is a novel form of cinnamon clinically proven to support healthy glucose metabolism. Lapes said, “We use a water extract from the bark of Cinnamomum cassia. Cinnamon contains fat soluble aldehydes, which can be toxic. This cinnamon extract is water soluble and therefore does not contain fat soluble toxic aldehydes.”

Crominex3+ is an advanced chromium complex that has been optimized with standardized extract of Indian gooseberry and the adaptogen shilajit. Life Extension said it uses a highly stable and bioavailable form of chromium that is complexed with Capros amla (Emblica officinalis) and PrimaVie shilajit.

Lapes noted, “The phenolic compounds and organic acids in shilajit and Indian gooseberry shield chromium from oxidative destruction in the body, stabilizing its structure and enhancing bioavailability.”

InSea2 is a seaweed extract that blocks the action of glucosidase and amylase—enzymes the body uses to break down carbohydrates into glucose, facilitating its transport into the bloodstream.

In addition to the above-mentioned products that primarily focus on blood sugar regulation, Life Extension also offers products that may protect individuals from the harmful effects of excess glucose, such as Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer with BioPQQ, which has key ingredients like R-Lipoic-Acid, Carnosine and Benfotiamine.

“Life Extension is always staying abreast on the latest research,” Lapes said. “We introduce new products or reformulate existing products based on emerging research.”

Currently, Tri Sugar Shield continues to be Life Extension’s top product for blood sugar support, according to Lapes.

Mushroom—A Blood-Lowering Botanical

Mark J. Kaylor, PhD, CN, has been exploring holistic health and healing for close to four decades. The founder and director of the not-for-profit Radiant Health Project, Kaylor also acts as consultant to New Jersey-based Mushroom Wisdom, amongst other companies.

Kaylor said that there are a number of nutrients and nutraceutical compounds that may be of benefit in targeting healthy blood sugar levels, but one key factor is often overlooked. “While there are a number of botanicals that lower blood sugar levels, many of them do this by raising insulin levels. While this may yield the short-term benefit of lowering one’s blood sugar, it may also contribute to the longer-term issue of insulin resistance.”

Continuing, he said, “When the cells are being constantly bombarded with chronically high levels of insulin, the cells have a tendency to become less and less responsive, thereby creating an ever-growing demand for more and more insulin production. We need to keep in mind that it is not just about blood sugar, rather a healthy balance is supported by blood sugar and insulin levels kept at appropriate levels.”

According to Kaylor, one of the best natural remedies clinically supported for improving cellular insulin sensitivity that supports healthy blood sugar levels is the Maitake SX-Fraction. “Studies show it can lower both blood sugar and insulin levels and evidence that it is improving insulin sensitivity is seen in its cardiovascular benefits of lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure,” he said. “In fact, one study found that Maitake’s actions were comparable to, and possibly even better than, a leading pharmaceutical drug.”

Since the HbA1c is a measure for looking at blood sugar levels over a longer period of time than a regular blood sugar test, one of the best ways to support results in the healthy range is to decrease insulin resistance, make the cells more responsive to insulin thereby lowering both blood sugar and insulin levels, especially over the long run.

“This is a key reason Maitake SX-Fraction is such a useful ally, because it helps improve the cells’ sensitivity to insulin,” he added.

Blood Testing

In conclusion, Lapes of Life Extension said that blood testing is an essential tool for individuals to monitor their health status. “Blood labs, including the Life Extension blood lab, are especially vital to diabetics in helping to ensure they are on the right treatment path. Blood testing is also a great way to determine if your supplement regimen is meeting your needs. Some markers Life Extension suggests for people who are wanting to learn more about their blood sugar regulation include: fasting glucose, HbA1C and insulin.” VR

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