Learning Blood Sugar Control and Preventing Insulin Resistance
Written by Claudia Guy, ND
Though a healthy diet is key to preventing many diseases and improving general
quality of life, simply learning to control your blood sugar levels can ward off
many other chronic diseases. Impaired glucose tolerance or high
blood levels of glucose (sugar) can destroy nerve tissue, muscle tissue, and
blood vessels, and reduce immune function.
Physiology of Blood Sugar Control
When sugar or refined carbohydrates are consumed uninhibited by fiber, protein,
or fats, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This rush of glucose in the blood - a sugar rush - commonly associated with sugary foods. However,
glucose must be immediately stored as glycogen, or fat. The signal for glucose storage is
triggered by the release of the hormone insulin. If insulin is not released, or not enough is released, the sugars
(glucose and fructose) can bind irreversibly to body tissues (proteins and
nerves) destroying them in a process called glycation or glycosylation.
Glycosylation produces Advanced Glycation End-products, or AGEs. AGEs result in early aging and
destruction of cells. Glycation is the process that leads to the common
complications of poor blood sugar control - damaged kidneys, nerves, vision, and
blood vessels. The
Standard American Diet (SAD) provides the number one source of fructose for
Americans. Though fructose is a
fruit sugar, the average American is over-consuming it through high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient in many
beverages, breads, baked goods, breakfast cereals, condiments and salad
dressings, rather than from fruits. These same food groups are also a source of refined carbohydrates.
If you're concerned about your blood sugar, speak with your doctor regarding your Hemoglobin A1C, which measures glycation of red blood cells. This test can give a
good indication of blood sugar control over the span of 3 months. Normal HgA1C
is 4.5-6% and less than 7% if you have
Introduced in 1981, the glycemic index was created to classify carbohydrate
foods by measuring how quickly blood sugar rises after consuming a carbohydrate
food. Glucose, the simplest form of
sugar, has a glycemic index of 100, to which every other food is compared. For
example, instant white rice has a glycemic index of 91, and apple has a glycemic
index of 36. Instant white rice will spike your blood glucose faster
and higher than an apple. The fiber in the apple slows down the absorption of
carbohydrate. Thus, in this case,
choosing the apple will better control your blood sugar levels and prevent
Physiology of Insulin Resistance
Insulin is released from the pancreas in response to the consumption of
carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It
communicates to cells to open their receptors to utilize or store these
nutrients. When an abundance of refined carbs is consumed, this causes the
insulin to spike. The goal is to consume foods that will not cause insulin
spikes. This constant burst of insulin can stress the pancreas and render cells
less responsive to insulin. When there is insulin resistance or insensitivity,
the cells are no longer responding to normal levels of insulin. Cells then require higher levels of
insulin in order to respond to insulin itself. When
there is insulin resistance, cells may not get enough nutrients, and the glucose
in the blood stream can begin glycosylating proteins. This process of insulin
resistance can burden the pancreas until it cab no longer produce enough
Reversing insulin resistance can be accomplished by dietary changes and
with the help of additional herbs and nutrients.
Banaba is the Tagolog translation for Lagerstromia.10, 11, 13 This
herb is found in Southeast Asia and has been part of the Philippine culture for
many years for digestive problems, kidney inflammation, and especially to fight
against high blood sugar.12 Traditionally, it has been consumed as a
tea, but now is widely available in supplement form.
The active constituent in Banaba leaf is Corosolic acid. Corosolic acid has been studied
extensively and shown to function similarly to insulin.12 This has
caught the attention of medical experts who are searching for ways to restore
normal blood sugar levels. As previously mentioned, the role of insulin is to
communicate to cells that there is glucose in the blood stream ready for
cellular uptake. This is very
promising for the plethora of individuals with insulin resistance.10
Corosolic acid aids in transporting glucose into the cells, this alleviates
pancreatic stress commonly associated with insulin resistance.10, 12, 13
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is often
referred to as “nature’s perfect antioxidant” 14 and the “Universal
Antioxidant”. It is both water- and fat-soluble, so it is absorbed very easily
into cells. ALA is a powerful antioxidant
capable of both balancing blood sugar and protecting the body from the damages
of elevated blood sugar.8 It prevents damage in the body and restores
essential antioxidants Vitamin E and C. Furthermore, it protects the nervous
system and kidneys from glycation. ALA has been shown in numerous studies to improve blood flow to nerves and help
improve their function. ALA has been
approved in Germany for the use of diabetic neuropathy.
Grape Seed Extract
The seeds of grapes naturally contain potent antioxidants such as flavonoids,
omega 6, and polyphenols. These polyphenols are called Oligomeric
ProanthoCyanidins or OPCs, and are responsible for the potent antioxidant
potential of grape seed extract.
Grape seed, as a powerful systemic antioxidant, is more potent than vitamin C
and is very safe. There is a growing wealth of research investigating the used
of grape seed extract that protects the liver, gut, brain, kidneys, heart and
pancreas; the same organs that are stressed in insulin resistance. Grape seed is
an excellent protector of the vasculature system, protecting it from free
radicals, cholesterol and sugar in the blood.
When it comes to blood sugar control, grape seed extract is a must. It has been
shown to decrease both blood glucose levels and insulin resistance.1, 2
Grape seed extract has been compared to a diabetic drug called Acarbose,4
which is designed to block the starch-digesting enzyme, assisting diabetics
in absorbing fewer calories from starch. This results in less starch/sugar being absorbed and better blood sugar
control. The grape seed worked similarly to the Acarbose, but it was shown to
bind the starch digesting enzymes better than Acarbose. Due to grape seed’s
strong ability to control blood sugar, it has been shown to help reverse
hypertension and fatty liver, two conditions commonly associated with blood
This simple mineral has profound implications in over 300 functions in the human
body.8 The average adult has 25 grams of Magnesium, of which half of
it is stored in bones, 1 percent is in the blood stream and the rest in other
organs that require it for biochemical processes. Magnesium is used for relaxing
muscles, bone health, fatty acid formation, blood clotting, making energy and
making new cells. Magnesium is also important in lowering blood pressure.
However, a magnesium deficiency is found associated with diabetes, or impaired
glucose control.9 Magnesium is most deficient in diabetic
retinopathy, neuropathy and diabetes-related heart disease.7 It is
common for Type 2 diabetics to spill glucose in their urine. When this occurs,
magnesium often spills as well.8 The American Diabetes Association
has acknowledged the association between magnesium deficiency and insulin
resistance. Supplementing with magnesium not only replete levels but can also
improve insulin production.6, 8, 9 Adding Vitamins B6 and E help
Magnesium get into cells.
Most people with insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes can achieve better blood
sugar control with a healthy diet and lifestyle and the inclusion of high-quality supplements. Be sure to eat foods with
a low glycemic index including whole grains, beans, leafy greens, vegetables, protein,
healthy fats and whole fruits but be cautious about sugary foods and beverages.
Smoking, moderate to heavy drinking, and being sedentary can accelerate
chronic diseases associated with impaired glucose tolerance. Because diabetes
and insulin resistance can lead to morbidity, it is imperative to maintain
healthy blood sugar levels.
Grape seed proanthocyanidin extracts
alleviate oxidative stress and ER stress in skeletal muscle of low-dose
streptozotocin- and high-carbohydrate/high-fat diet-induced diabetic rats.
Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Feb;57(2):365-9.
Procyanidins modify insulinemia by
affecting insulin production and degradation.
J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Dec;23(12):1565-72.
and tea extracts and catechin 3-gallates are potent inhibitors of α-amylase and
J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):8924-9
Ibrahimpasic K. Alpha lipoic acid and glycaemic control in diabetic neuropathies at type 2
Med Arh. 2013;67(1):7-9.
Improved insulin response and action by
chronic magnesium administration in aged NIDDM subjects.
Diabetes Care. 1989 Apr;12(4):265-9.
de Lordes Lima M,
The effect of magnesium supplementation in increasing doses on the control
of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Care. 1998 May;21(5):682-6.
Paolisso G, Scheen A, D’Onofrio F,
Lefebvre P. Magnesium and glucose
homeostasis. Diabetologia. 1990 Sep; 33 (9):511-4.
Eibl NL, Kopp HP, Nowak HR,
Schnack CJ, Hopmeier PG, Schernathaner G.
Hypomagnesemia in type II diabetes: effect of a 3-month replacement therapy.
Diabetes Care. 1995 Feb;18(2):188-92.
Hypoglycemic effect of extracts from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. leaves in
genetically diabetic KK-AY mice.
Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1996 Feb;60(2):204-8.
Antiobesity activity of extracts from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. leaves on
female KK-Ay mice.
J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1999 Dec;45(6):791-5.
Antidiabetes and Anti-obesity Activity of Lagerstroemia speciosa.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007 Dec;4(4):401-7.
A review of the efficacy and safety of banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa L.)
and corosolic acid.
Phytother Res. 2012 Mar;26(3):317-24.
Miura T, Takagi S,
Management of Diabetes and Its Complications with Banaba (Lagerstroemia
speciosa L.) and Corosolic Acid.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:871495.
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