Essential Heart Health Nutrients for People With Type 2 Diabetes

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Diabetes Complications, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Learn which nutrients provide the best cardiovascular support if you have diabetes

Many nutrients support cardiovascular health. However, if you have type 2 diabetes, these five—when taken in addition to a high-quality daily multivitamin—are especially helpful.

Some of the nutrients specifically address the cardiovascular side effects of excess blood sugar—namely stiffened arteries and blood vessels, thickened blood, and impaired circulation. The others help address an important consequence of impaired circulation, which is the delivery of nutrients to cells.

CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one of the most important nutrients for overall heart health, but especially if you have diabetes.

CoQ10 helps to produce energy within the mitochondria of cells. It is also a potent antioxidant and helps maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promotes arterial health (a key factor in many diabetes complications), and supports a strong heartbeat. Take 100–300 mg of CoQ10 daily, in divided doses, with meals.

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L-carnitine

This amino acid can dramatically improve heart function in people with diabetes.

L-carnitine helps transport fat across the mitochondrial membrane, where it’s burned for energy. Studies have shown that when heart patients are given L-carnitine before an exercise stress test, the heart functions more efficiently—it pumps more blood, with fewer beats, and with less of a tendency toward oxygen deprivation. L-carnitine has virtually no side effects. I recommend up to 2,000 mg of L-carnitine daily, taken in divided doses with meals.

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L-arginine

Another amino acid, L-arginine supports the cardiovascular system by increasing concentrations of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a natural substance that the body releases to relax the muscles lining the arteries, which helps to promote healthy circulation and normal blood pressure levels.

Arginine is best absorbed on an empty stomach. If you experience stomach upset, however, try taking it with a little carbohydrate-containing food. (Be sure to choose low glycemic load carbohydrates.) Avoid eating protein at the same time, as this may impair absorption. I recommend 1,000 mg of L-arginine, in a time-release form, twice a day.

Note: Consult your physician before taking L-arginine if you are taking Viagra, nitroglycerin or a related drug, if you are pregnant, or if you have any of the following: migraines, autoimmune disorders, herpes, AIDS, cirrhosis, depression, or cancer.

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Ribose

This simple, five-carbon sugar is required for the production of ATP in our cells. It is particularly effective in restoring energy to the heart muscle. Take 5 g of ribose (one heaping teaspoonful) mixed in water or tea or sprinkled on foods, two to three times a day.

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Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in fish and other marine oils, support arterial health by promoting proper blood vessel dilation, reducing “stiffness,” and improving vascular function. Take a minimum of 900 mg EPA and 600 mg DHA daily, in divided doses, with meals.

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More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Diabetes Complications

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