Thursday, July 29, 2010

Question of the week: Cinnamon and Chromium as supplements?

The following question was sent to me for discussion on my blog: "I have diabetes and a coworker was telling me I should be taking supplements such as cinnamon and chromium to help control blood sugar. Are these safe and effective?"

Before taking any type of vitamin, mineral, or supplement, please contact your doctor to ensure that it will not interact negatively with anything else you may be taking.

Recent human studies indicate that consuming roughly one half of a teaspoon of cinnamon per day or less leads to dramatic improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. Intake of cinnamon, at these levels, is very safe and there should not be any side effects.

Studies also indicated that the active components of cinnamon are found in the water-soluble portion of cinnamon and are not present in cinnamon oil, which is largely fat-soluble. In addition to ground cinnamon consumed directly, one can also make a cinnamon tea using cinnamon sticks and let the solids settle to the bottom

There are also companies selling water soluble components from cinnamon that contain the active ingredients with minimal amounts of the components that could be toxic at elevated levels.

Source: USDA


According to University of Maryland Medical Center:
The benefit of chromium supplements for diabetes has been studied and debated for a number of years. While some clinical studies have reported no beneficial effects of chromium use for people with diabetes, other clinical studies have reported that chromium supplements may reduce blood sugar levels as well as the amount of insulin needed by people with diabetes. Pregnancy-induced and steroid-induced diabetes may benefit from chromium as well. Chromium was found to decrease the insulin resistance problems seen in individuals who smoke cigarettes. Chromium is an antioxidant, which helps protect the body against free radical damage (oxidation).

Because of the popularity of taking chromium supplements for blood sugar regulation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed the clinical evidence and concluded that the relationship between chromium picolinate intake and insulin resistance is highly uncertain. More research is needed.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Question of the week: What Can I Eat to Lower My Cholesterol?

The following question was submitted by one of my readers, "I just had an appointment with my doctor and she said my A1C was 6.7 and that my cholesterol was also high. I guess I have been eating too much cheese and eggs, which raised my cholesterol. What diabetic friendly foods can I eat to help me lower my cholesterol?"

The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and to later gauge how well you're managing your diabetes. The A1C test reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. A non-diabetic person will have an A1c result between 4% and 6%. Someone with diabetes would have an A1c level of 6.5% or higher while someone with pre-diabetes would have an A1c of 5.7% - 6.4%.

You don't have to completely give up eggs or cheese in order to lower your cholesterol levels. Substitute whole eggs with egg whites or egg substitutes and switch to low or fat free cheeses. Cholesterol is found in foods of animal origin.

Other tips to help lower your cholesterol (Source: American Heart Association):

Focus on low-saturated-fat, trans fat-free, low-cholesterol foods such as these:
• A variety of fruits and vegetables (choose 8 to 10 servings per day)
• A variety of grain products like bread, cereal, rice and pasta, including whole grains(choose 6 or more servings per day)
• Fat-free and low-fat milk products (2 to 3 servings per day)
• Lean meats and poultry without skin (choose up to 5 to 6 total ounces per day)
• Fatty fish (enjoy at least 2 servings baked or grilled each week)
• Beans and peas
• Nuts and seeds in limited amounts (4 to 5 servings per week)
• Unsaturated vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, safflower and soybean oils (but a limited amount of margarines and spreads made from them)
*Foods high in soluble fiber such as Oats. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.

Soluble fiber can reduce the help the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Just five to ten grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol.(Source: Mayo Clinic).

Exercise can also assist in lowering your cholesterol levels. Consult your personal physician before starting any new exercise regimen.

Weight loss can help to lower your cholesterol.

In some cases, where high cholesterol levels may be genetic, and diet has been modified, it may be necessary to consult a doctor about prescription medication.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Question of the week: Suggestions for maintain diet and exercise while traveling?

The following question was posed by a reader for discussion on my blog, "I have type 2 diabetes and travel quite a bit. My eating & exercise are unpredictable at best when I travel and I'm having a difficult time managing my diabetes. What do you suggest?"

It is possible to maintain your proper diet and exercise regiment while traveling. The key to it is preparation.

The first thing I suggest is, if traveling via airplane - request a diabetic or vegetarian meal for your flight. Also, if possible, pack and carry healthful snacks with you as to avoid the fast-food kiosks at the airport and so that you don't allow your blood sugar levels to get too low.

Next I would suggest researching the area. The internet is a useful tool. You can look at restaurants local to where you are staying and usually menus are found on line. This way you can search out menus with healthful choices on them.

Many restaurants will allow you to make special requests such as ordering fish broiled or grilled with lemon (and not butter), chicken grilled, and salad dressings on the side. Look on menus for words such as grilled, broiled, baked, broth, multi-grain, poached, seared, steamed, and seasoned. Request that your side vegetables be steamed and served with a lemon wedge. Restaurant sized portions are usually inflated, try to stick to 3 - 4 oz of lean protein (see: a deck of cards), 1 cup size of complex carbohydrate (see: fist), and 1/2 the plate can consist of green veggies.

AVOID menu items that use the words, breaded, battered, fried, smothered, glazed, melted, and crusted. Skip the breadbasket and bread sticks that may be set on the table - better yet, ask the waitstaff not to bring them or remove them from the table.

Another suggestion is to check out a local supermarket if possible and pick up healthful snacks as well as fresh fruits and veggies. This way you can have more healthful choices and avoid impulses.

Regarding exercise, most hotels have a gym ( and a pool so be sure to pack appropriate gear) that you can have access to. Take total advantage. An even better idea, is to run or powerwalk locally - this way you can sightsee as well as get your exercise in!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Question of the week: Controlling blood sugar levels

The following question was submitted by a reader this week: "I just been diagnosed with diabetes. Doctors say I have uncontrollable diabetes any tips on how I can get my sugar level down?"

First thing to look at as diet. A healthy diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Portion size and eating frequency are also important for controlling your blood sugar. Eliminate as many white flour and sugar products from your diet as possibly (i.e. white bread, white pasta, cookies, cake).

The proper portion of a lean protein such as fish or chicken would be 3 - 4oz. A serving of a complex carbohydrate should be 1/2 cup (i.e. brown rice), and 1 cup of vegetables. Use this visualization as a guide: A "proper" plate would consist of 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, and 1/2 non-starchy vegetable.

Better to eat more small meals than fewer large meals. This should help with keeping your blood sugar regular. Consistency is also important as your body will respond to excess fat and calories by causing an increase in blood sugar levels.

Next thing to look at is physical activity. Try to increase your physical activity - set a goal for 20 minutes a day. Whether it is walking or participating in a group sport, exercise has many positive benefits and will help in creating a healthier lifestyle and controlling your diabetes. Consult with your doctor before starting any type of physical regimen.

Finally, be sure to take your medication as prescribed and monitor your blood sugar as directed.

See the following link for more information: Mayo Clinic-Diabetes Management