T Nation

Insulin Sensitivity

What is the best supplement to increase insulin sensitivity?

way to broad.

Uh, exercise and diet.

Dan “Hope that clears things up” McVicker

ALA has been shown to increase carb uptake.

A better, more potent form of ALA is r-ALA.

Hi Pat,
I have looked at several proposed enhancers of glucose uptake in the lab - both acutely and chronically. The tough thing to tease apart is just WHERE the glucose is being shuttled. Do you want to enhance fat cell glucose uptake? Probably not. Some research you may hear about (e.g. cinnamon) involved just such a thing(adipocytes). So, driving blood sugar down with a drug or supplement doesnt tell us much, even if you could find one that did it.

Suffice it to say that I dont personally use any. (I agree that lipoate appears most intriguing.)

The time of day, 3 hour post-workout window (as Dan mentioned) and state of muscle damage / soreness are much bigger deals.

Some geeky science guy wrote an article dealing with glucose intolerance here on T-mag. It was called Intolerable, I think.


Thanks for that note, Lonnie. I’ve been wondering for a while now whether things like ALA put glucose ‘in the right place.’ Hence, I’ve generally avoided it.

It’s good to have my suspicions at least partially confirmed.

Before Christmas I did my own study on r-ALA using myself as a guinea pig. I monitored my blood sugar levels after eating lunch with and without r-ALA. My theory was that r-ALA should drop blood sugar faster, since it supposedly increases glucose uptake, right? The results showed that r-ALA made absolutely no change in glucose uptake rate. None whatsoever.

I did notice with r-ALA that instead of my blood sugar settling back to its fasting state, blood sugar seemed to keep dropping beyond the time when it settled out without r-ALA. (I have an Excel chart to prove it.) Anybody know what that means?

I’m planning on repeating the experiment here shortly to try to figure out what’s going on.

Please consider your results with a grain of salt. Your interest is definitely commendable but good luck coming up with meaningful numbers. Blood glucose responses (even fasting) typically vary on the order of 15-20 percent (intra-individual) from day to day. Thus supplement effects would have to supercede this (i.e. be HYOOGE).

Yep, repeated sampling was always a protocol we used in the lab. Once we nailed down a coefficient of variation (standard dev / mean) we’d have a better indication of what supplement effects we’d expect to be meaningful.

And another headache… Once efficacy (or inefficacy) can be estimated from repeat trials at one dose, there’s also higher or lower doses to consider (each necessitating multiple repeat trials, again with abstinence from exercise and dietary control for a few days prior).

And one other thing, it’s conceivable that even if gross blood glucose doesnt change, the insulin level necessary to maintain it could be lower (suggesting efficacy).

So you see, this stuff gets ugly and time consuming considering its relative crudeness.

Hope that’s informative.



You mention that cinnamon increase fat cell glucose uptake. Now you got me a little worried.

One of my favorite treat is a Low-Carb GROW protein shake mix with Natural Peanut Butter, 2% Cottage Cheese, and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Would the cinnamon increase the chance of fat storage during a Protein/Fat combo meal?

None of this is good news. I am on a medication that has been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity in some people. I suspect I am one of them. Adjusting my diet seems to have no effect on my body fat content. Insulin sensitivity is one of the last variables I can attribute that to. I heard chromium picolinate(sp?) might help, but nobody seems to be able to prove it. Maybe its time to break down and get some HotRox.

First, a P/F meal wouldn’t produce the same kind of glucose and insulin response as a carb-rich meal, so there’s theoretically less problem.

Second, I still put cinnamon sticks in my morning coffee because I like the taste. If it helps combat any caffeine-induced glucose intolerance, great - if not, so what - I like it and we may be talking minutia here. (That is, effects on human fat vs muscle may require unacceptably high doses or just not amount to much.) Time will tell.

And last (sorry for this list), fat cells are sometimes used in research as a model because they are so sensitive to insulin stimulation. They may well still simulate what a human muscle cell does.

In fact, there are some spanking new rodent data suggesting just that - skeletal muscle effects! (Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2003 Dec;62(3):139-48.)

Again, time will tell whether adipose or muscle tissue benefits most. Until then, I wouldn’t fret over my cinnamon use. (BTW, that low-carb PB shake you mention is one I always thought was tasty during reduced-carb evenings!)


I would talk to my physician if I was concerned over such a side effect, mild or not. There are both lifestyle and medical ways to deal with glucose intolerance.

I can say this from the literature, which maybe you can discuss with your doc…

In addition to reductions in "the “muscle damage” enzyme, AST, and in platelet count (under certain conditions), researchers have said this about cinnamon and olive leaf:

“In addition, any visible toxicity, except decrease in body weight gain, attributable to the long-term use of plant materials was not established in normal rats. The data indicate that long-term use of olive leaf and cinnamon bark may provide benefit against diabetic conditions. Determination of underlying mechanism(s) of beneficial effects, toxicity to other systems and clinical assessments of related plant materials are major topics requiring further studies.” (J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 Nov;51(11):1305-12.)

Again, this is all preliminary rodent data, human studies are needed.


You stay gone to long L-Train.
The boards miss you. Good info…even though nothing definitive is proven, it gets you thinking.


Let me tell you, the cost of those test strips add up after a while. When I did my experiment, I spent 4 days establishing a baseline curve for my postprandial glucose disposal. (It’s not pretty; I’m very insulin insensitive.) Knowing the test strips have a big margin for error, I retested when I got a reading that looked funny. I then spent only two days with the r-ALA before I gave it up (I forgot to bring the r-ALA one day, and then I didn’t take lunch as usual, etc. etc.)

I started taking readings between 30 to 60 minutes after the meal. Maybe the effect would be more noticeable earlier.

If you have any suggestions on how to improve my experiment, and keep it manageable, I’d like to hear them. Maybe my hypothesis is wrong.


What about the use of something like glucophage to control levels of blood glucose? Also hasn’t it been found to lower blood fat levels too?

I’ve been putting cinnamon in my Surge lately after I read about its effects on insulin sensitivity, and I’m pretty well convinced that it helps reduce the amount of soreness I experience. I know that I haven’t done anything close to scientific, but I’m going to keep up with it. Plus, it makes the Surge taste even better!

Creed: That’s a very interesting question that I’d be interested in knowing the answer. My first guess is that if you see any glucose lowering it’s because the liver has ceased release of it. However, I’m inclined to think fat uptake is not affected.


I thought I remember reading an article about cinnamon achieving the desired effect. Search this site on it…

Yeh that’s actually exactly what i read. ‘helps your body produce less glucose from the liver’