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The role of nutritional supplementation is of increasing interest with regard to ocular disease. Randomised controlled trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of supplementation for age-related macular degeneration, and formulations are now being developed for use by people with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. The aim of this review was to synthesise the evidence for use of nutritional supplementation in type 2 diabetes. MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched using a systematic approach. Only double-masked randomised controlled trials were selected. A total of 50 trials were identified as suitable for inclusion. The potential role of alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, folic acid, isoflavones, magnesium, Pycnogenol®, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is discussed. The review of trials identifies positive effects of these nutrients on various outcome measures relating to insulin resistance and cardiovascular factors. Chromium was the most studied supplement, accounting for 16 of the 50 trials. A majority of the trials found a positive effect of chromium on fasting plasma glucose. Isoflavones were found to have a positive effect on insulin resistance and cardiovascular outcome measures, but only when combined with soy proteins. Vitamin E is reported to reduce oxidative stress at levels of 200 mg day-1 or more.
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