There is not enough evidence to support using dietary supplements in the treatment of diabetes. There is preliminary evidence that some herbs lower blood sugar by a modest amount, but it would be foolish to think they could replace conventional treatment of diabetes.
There is good news for diabetics; unfortunately, it is fake news based on “alternative facts.” I monitor my local newspaper, the Tacoma News Tribune, for health-related advertisements, and I have yet to find an advertised product or service that is supported by credible scientific evidence. Within the space of two weeks, they published half-page advertisements masquerading as news stories about two miraculous natural remedies for diabetes: Plavinol and Glucopure.
I have written about Plavinol before. Plavinol’s active ingredient is Morus alba (white mulberry). That ingredient is supported by mouse studies but not by human studies. A systematic review of clinical studies of Morus alba for diabetes found inconsistent results and concluded “Products derived from M. alba can effectively contribute[emphasis added] to the reduction in PPG [post-prandial glucose] levels, but large-scale RCTs would be informative.” Plavinol contains four additional “supporting nutrients” without any good rationale. The product itself has not been tested, so there is really no way to know whether it is safe and effective as marketed.
The new kid on the block is Glucopure. The headline reads “Diabetics in A Frenzy Over Newly-Released Blood Sugar Pill.”It offers the usual sales pitches: a shortage is expected, get free bottles if you call right away, free shipping if you subscribe, and a double-your-money money-back guarantee (with a few strings attached).
The claims are impressive:
- Key ingredient reduces blood sugar 25%, cholesterol 23% and A1c 2.2% in University Study.
- Studies on other ingredients showed reduced sugar levels.
- In one study, a key Glucopure ingredient was shown to work better than a major Big Pharma drug.
- It can stop hunger pangs and lead to steady weight loss.
- Must-have ingredients: Diabetes is a nutritional wasting disease, so elevated glucose causes substantial loss of minerals through the urine and this results in diabetic complications like nerve pain, high blood pressure, damage to eyes and kidneys, and insulin resistance. Glucopure replaces the lost minerals with essentials like Vitamins C and E, magnesium, and biotin. [Note: the only one of these that is a mineral is magnesium. And scientists do not recognize mineral loss as the cause of diabetic complications.]
- It’s natural and prescription-free.
- It destroys sugar and recreates pancreatic cells. [What? I don’t think so!]
- Doctors are lining up for bulk supplies. [Why? Are they going to sell them to patients at a markup?]
- Indisputable proof: in the 10-day test. 90% of people had “healthy blood sugar spikes” before (!?) and after meals, fewer cravings, weight loss, and more energy, all without changing their lifestyle.
What’s in it?
- Glucopure Healthy Sugar Blend: Banaba, Guggul, Bitter Melon, Licorice Extract, Cinnamon Bark, Gymnema sylvestre.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Yarrow Flowers
- Juniper Berries
- White Mulberry Leaf
- “Vandium” (perhaps vanadium?)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Where is the evidence?
The company website offers testimonials, but its “Research” tab only says “Coming Soon.”
I don’t have the patience to look up the evidence behind each of Glucopure’s 20 ingredients. Several experts have already done that and more.
“A systematic review of herbs and dietary supplements for glycemic control in diabetes” published in Diabetes Care concluded:
There is still insufficient evidence to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of individual herbs and supplements for diabetes; however, they appear to be generally safe. The available data suggest that several supplements may warrant further study. The best evidence for efficacy from adequately designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) is available for Coccinia indica and American ginseng. Chromium has been the most widely studied supplement. Other supplements with positive preliminary results include Gymnema sylvestre, Aloe vera, vanadium, Momordica charantia, and nopal.
Note that only 3 of these “best evidence” ingredients are included in Glucopure. Why not the rest? Why all the other stuff?
The American Diabetes Association warns about side effects and drug interactions.
An article onWebMD says “So far there is not enough research to support specific recommendations for diabetes and dietary supplements” and they warn that some supplements can hinder diabetic control.
Even the usually supplement-friendly NCCIH says:
There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that any dietary supplements can help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.
They describe the published evidence for several of the ingredients in Glucopure.
Does it work?
There is some evidence that some of the ingredients in Glucopure might lower blood sugar levels to a modest degree; but the evidence is preliminary, inconsistent, and far from compelling. There is no way to know if the combination of 20 ingredients in Glucopure is safe or effective, because neither the combination of ingredients nor the product as formulated has ever been tested.
They can’t legally advertise Glucopure as an effective treatment for diabetes, but they are strongly suggesting that it is. They make statements like these:
- “This may signal the end of expensive prescriptions and daily injections for millions struggling with their blood sugar.”
- “While diet and exercise are important, most sufferers tell you they would prefer healthy sugar and A1c levels without changing their daily routine.”
- “All but eliminates the need for pricey drugs and injections.”
- “Could be the nail in the coffin for low-carbohydrate diets.”
They may have skated past the legalities, but they are on thin ice; there is no question that they are misleading customers.
Diabetes is a serious disease with life-threatening complications. It can’t be cured but it can be treated effectively. While certain dietary supplements might help reduce blood sugar levels to a modest degree and could be considered as possible adjuncts to conventional treatment, it would be foolish to think they could replace diabetes drugs or insulin, or for that matter, diet and exercise.
Note: I am highlighting Plavinol and Glucopure only because their advertisements appeared in my local newspaper. There are many similar natural remedies for diabetes on the market. They all make similar claims and are similarly unsupported by evidence.
This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.