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Vitamin Supplements for Diabetics?

What vitamin supplements are good for an elderly person with diabetes?

Many vitamin preparations and supplements abound in the market and are readily available to unwitting consumers. In fact, some manufacturers of these products have even become very aggressive in promoting them as cure all, “wonder” pills for many conditions, including diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Just when we consider buying other consumer products, it would be wise to ascertain how useful these supplements are before we spend our money on them. More importantly, we would be buying these products presumably to improve our health and well-being.

First,let us examine the facts that would support or oppose the use of vitamins and supplements in an elderly person with diabetes. Aging itself causes a lot of changes in the nutritional requirements. Such changes are mainly affected by the decline in energy use due to decrease in lean body mass and increase in body fat as one ages. Put simply, growing older often means needing less food and other nutrients due to lesser activity and slower metabolism. Other factors that affect dietary intake among the elderly include poor appetite, dental and digestive conditions and medications taken for many medical problems. Social and economic constraints may also influence the amount and the quality of food being consumed by the aging individuals. The level of food intake, when too little and not balanced, can then lead to vitamin deficiency. Therefore, elderly individuals will get the most benefit from adequate food intake with good sources of vitamins and minerals.

How about diabetes? Is there proof that diabetes causes vitamin deficiency? Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are often associated with micronutrient deficiencies, such as potassium, magnesium, chromium and possibly zinc. Lack of potassium and magnesium are easily measured through blood tests and hence, easily corrected. But for chromium, zinc and other micronutrients, it is difficult to get actual levels and tests to estimate actual body needs for these micronutrients. Balanced diet and natural food sources are still the best nutrition for diabetes.

Being elderly with diabetes may mean double jeopardy diet-wise due to the effects of aging and of diabetes on the food and vitamin needs of the body. A sensible, balanced diet is thus most logical for diabetes control and for general well-being. But if for many reasons, as we have noted earlier, food intake is not adequate, then vitamin supplementation is needed. A general multivitamin, readily available in many drugstores, is often adequate for many aging individuals and does not need to be expensive.

There is still ongoing research on the usefulness and safety of vitamins and antioxidants given at doses higher than what the body needs. There is no convincing evidence yet that giving vitamins and supplements in people without deficiencies is helpful for disease prevention. It is worthwhile to continue emphasizing that balanced diet, whenever possible, is the best and cheapest source of vitamins and minerals. You can then spend your money wisely and use it for proven treatment for diabetes. Talk to your doctor about them.

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