Diabetes Can Be Helped by Dietary Supplements

Thu, 13 Oct 2005
Diabetes sufferers can be helped by vanadium which appears to play a part in speeding up recovery from infections.

Dietary supplements containing vanadium are used by body builders to help beef up muscles and by some diabetic people to control blood sugar. New research now suggests the naturally occurring but easily toxic element may help prepare the body to recover speedily from infections from gram-negative organisms such as E. coli.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scientists are attempting to work out how recovery might be encouraged and why people with diabetes tend to have lingering behavioural symptoms such as fatigue and apathy long after many infections end.

Their latest research found that mice given vanadium -- in its typical vanadyl sulfate form -- before exposure to a pathogen sped recovery in both diabetic and non-diabetic animals. They also tested pre-treatment with insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which vanadium mimics, but only the non-diabetic mice recovered quickly after exposure.

The new paper appeared on line Oct. 10 ahead of regular journal publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers Daniel R. Johnson, a doctoral student, and Dr. Gregory Freund, head of the pathology department in the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, don't suggest adding vanadium supplements to everyday diets. However, they said, the findings raise questions about just how it works and how it might be useful in speeding recovery.

The amount of vanadium used in the study was comparable to that found in nutritional supplements. While its nutritional value is unclear, the body needs an estimated 10 to 20 micrograms a day and obtains it mostly from plant material. Vanadium in much higher levels becomes toxic. Its use for building muscles has not been confirmed, but vanadium has improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar in diabetic people.

In their research, Johnson first administered a low dose of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a molecule present on E. coli and other gram-negative bacteria, to both diabetic and non-diabetic mice after they had been given IGF-1. Non-diabetic mice recovered more quickly than diabetic mice, suggesting, he said, an insulin resistance state in the diabetic animals.
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