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Diabetes mellitus: the role of vitamins and minerals

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing all over the world, including Iran. In Iran, more than 8 million people are suffering from diabetes. In the United States, more than 10% of the population has diabetes. After a few years, patients with diabetes may face secondary problems, including cardiovascular complications such as increased risk of heart attack and stroke, complications related to the nervous system such as peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy, kidney complications and the need for dialysis, eye complications and even blindness, etc.

Is there any association between deficiency in vitamins and minerals and diabetes mellitus?  

Yes. In children, higher levels of vitamin D have been associated with reduced incidence of type 1 diabetes. (Vitamin D has important effects on regulating the immune system function, and in type 1 diabetes, autoimmune mechanisms are involved in the pathophysiology of disease.) Group B vitamins are important in proper control of blood sugar and the occurrence of diabetes. Chromium deficiency is associated with poor blood sugar control, although it is not very prevalent. Magnesium is also necessary for blood sugar control. On the other hand, magnesium deficiency is prevalent, and about one-third to half of the population face some degree of magnesium deficiency.

What is the role of vitamins and minerals in those who have diabetes? Deficiency in group B vitamins, especially vitamins B1, B6 and B12, aggravates diabetic neuropathy. Metformin is one of the important drugs used in the management of type 2 diabetes. Patients on metformin are more susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency than the general population. Patients with diabetes face with a higher degree of oxidative stress, and for this reason, antioxidants such as vitamin C are useful for them. In patients who have fatty liver in addition to diabetes, vitamin E may also be useful. Magnesium is effective in improving pain in patients with diabetic neuropathy. On the other hand, magnesium deficiency is common in patients with diabetes. Magnesium in combination with vitamin B6 is especially useful for diabetic neuropathy. The combination of vitamins B1, B6 and B12 increases their beneficial effects in diabetic neuropathy. In other words, these vitamins have a synergistic effect when used in combination.

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