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Karen Chapman Novakofski

Professor of Nutrition

Marilyn Csernus

Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness


June/July 2015

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In This Issue

Diabetes - The Medical Perspective

You don't have to look far to find advertisements hyping claims for dietary supplements. Anything from vitamins and minerals to herbal remedies and even acupuncture and meditation are claimed to treat a host of health problems. Websites, radio and magazines advertise products suggesting an improvement in diabetes control. These products are known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Millions of people take some form of CAM daily, but are they safe and is there any benefit for diabetes treatment?

Product manufacturers, not the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are responsible for the products' safety and assuring claims are not false or misleading. A manufacturer can describe how a supplement affects bodily functions, but cannot state the supplement is used to prevent, treat or cure any disease. For example, a product manufacturer might state chromium is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates and therefore may lower blood glucose. The manufacturer must include a disclaimer stating "this statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and this product is not intended as a prevention, treatment or cure for any disease." So, the first challenge is to decide if the health claim is true, may be true, or likely not true.

Researchers are studying many dietary supplements to determine their benefit in improving glucose control in diabetes. Alpha lipoic acid, cinnamon, chromium, ginko biloba, ginseng, resveratrol and vitamin D have all been suggested to have a positive effect on glucose. However, at the present time no dietary supplements including vitamin/mineral supplements or herbal remedies are recommended for the prevention or treatment of type 2 diabetes, due to a lack of well-designed clinical research studies. For specific supplements and their link to diabetes, go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, found at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes/supplements.

A common mistake is to assume that because a product is a "natural" product it is a safe product. Whether from a natural or synthetic source, if a product has the potential to affect bodily functions or interfere with other medications it should be treated as a drug. Some dietary supplements have the potential to cause blood glucose to drop too low when it is taken with insulin or certain diabetes medications, or change the effectiveness of other medications. There is also the potential for kidney disease risk, according to the NIH.

Despite any scientific evidence of glucose lowering benefit, many individuals still choose to take a variety of dietary supplements. To lessen the potential of negative side affects all dietary supplements should be included in your list of medications including dosage, duration of therapy, and indication for use. To ensure a supplement meets standards for strength and purity make sure it has a USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) label on the product.

Before ever starting a nutritional supplement or alternative treatment of any kind discuss any potential interactions or problems with a pharmacist and your health provider.

Diabetes and Food

Dietary supplements of any kind are not a replacement for the conventional treatments of any chronic disease. Diabetes is no exception. The conventional treatment for type 2 diabetes is eating a healthy diet and being as physically active as individually appropriate. For many, treatment also includes taking a diabetes medication or medications in the form of a pill or insulin injection.

Can food be a "supplement"? There are certain products that we may see as "food" that the government sees as "supplement". These might include nutrition drinks, nutrition bars, or even diabetic cookies or brownies. If you find these items separate from "regular" food in the grocery store, they are classified as a supplement and not as food, and are regulated as a supplement.

Does someone with diabetes need food labeled "for diabetes"? No. You don't need "diabetic" food or special diabetic food supplements. Lower carbohydrate products may be worked into your meal plan, but they are not needed. Read labels and work with your health care team to find the right foods for your healthy lifestyle.

Recipies to try

Spicy Grilled Chicken

4 – 4 ounce servings


  • 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • A half cup of bottled salsa
  • Cooking spray
  1. About 15 minutes before cooking, measure the salsa into a large bowl.
  2. Rinse and pat dry chicken pieces. Remove any remaining skin and fat. Place in the large bowl and turn with tongs to coat completely. Place bowl in refrigerator until ready to cook chicken.
  3. Place on hot grill or broiler pan. Grill or broil about 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate to use in salads or sandwiches.
Nutrition Facts per serving
Calories 192
Fat 4 grams
Protein 35 grams
Calories from fat 36
Carbohydrate 1 gram
Cholesterol 96 mg
Fiber 0 gram
Sodium 153 mg

Summer Squash with Dill

4 servings

  • 4 yellow summer squash or zucchini (about 5-6 inches long and 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter)
  • 1 tablespoon liquid margarine
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  1. Slice squash. Steam in vegetable steamer or in small amount of water until color has changed, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from steamer and place drained squash in bowl.
  3. Drizzle liquid margarine and toss lightly.
  4. Sprinkle dill weed on top and serve.
Nutrition facts per serving
Calories 54
Fat 3 grams
Protein 2 grams
Calories from fat 27
Carbohydrate 6 grams
Cholesterol 0 mg
Fiber 2 grams
Sodium 34 mg

Sample Menu


Poached egg 1
Whole wheat English muffin 1
Soft tub margarine 2 teaspoons
Fresh peach 1 small
Skim milk 1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 434
Carbohydrates 58 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4


Spicy grilled chicken* 4 ounces chicken
Summer squash with dill* 1 serving
Sliced strawberries 1 and 1/4 cup
Small whole wheat roll 1
Soft tub margarine 1 teaspoon
Non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt 5 ounces
Skim milk 1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 641
Carbohydrates 65 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4 Choices


Baked pork chops* 4 ounces
Broccoli and cheese casserole* 1 serving
Spinach orange salad* 1 serving
Lower calorie cheesecake* 1 serving
Skim milk 1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 806
Carbohydrates 62 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4 Choices


Calories 1881
Carbohydrates 185 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 12 Choices

*Recipies from Recipes for Diabetes at extension.illinois.edu/diabetesrecipes/ or this newsletter

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