DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: On recent bloodwork, my glucose level was 116 (normal on the chart was 65 to 99), and my hemoglobin A1c value is 5.7 (normal is less than 5.7). In the past three months, I have been seeing a naturopathic doctor about my “impaired glucose tolerance,” and have been given vanadyl sulfate complex to take twice a day.

Would you recommend taking this kind of supplement, and over what period of time? I’ve been assured by my naturopath that the capsules I’m taking have no long-term harmful effects. Information on the Internet can be vague and confusing. Any thoughts? I’d like to treat this with my medical doctor as well as with my naturopath doctors. I am a 45-year-old female in relatively good health who should shed about 20-25 pounds (which I am working on), and do plan on taking this supplement if I see my values improve. — A.

ANSWER: First, your blood sugar level and hemoglobin A1c level (both tests for diabetes) are in the abnormal but not diabetic range, so your diagnosis of impaired glucose, sometimes called prediabetes, seems right.

You have made many statements that I agree with completely. Information on the Internet is confusing. If you search for “vanadyl sulfate,” you’ll get ads and testimonials about how wonderful it is and links to buy it. However, when I looked up the clinical data, I found some studies showing promising results, but two studies showed it did nothing to blood sugar levels or hemoglobin A1c levels in healthy volunteers and in people with impaired glucose levels. Further, because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements, you have only the manufacturer’s assurance that the product you buy contains the product you want. Many manufacturers have excellent practices; however, some do not.

I also agree that losing a few pounds really will help reduce your risk of diabetes. In the definitive trial, diabetes was prevented more successfully with a healthy diet and regular exercise than with proven, regulated diabetes medications. Put your efforts into increasing exercise and improving your diet, not in the supplement. It’s harder, but you will feel better, and it’s much better to prevent diabetes than to treat it.

Finally, you are absolutely right that you should share information on all the medications and supplements you are taking with all of your providers. While I didn’t find any evidence of harm from this product, that’s not always the case, and some supplements have bad interactions with prescribed medications.

DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have a bad right hip, and I walk with a cane. About two years ago, it got weaker, so much so that I could not walk. This past March, the doctor said I had arthritis and at that point gave me a cane. I take no pills or medications.

Please, could you give me some information that would help a 73-year-old man? — L.W.

ANSWER: This sounds like osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. It usually affects large joints, like the hips and the knees, but it can affect other joints, especially the back, the hands and the wrists. Arthritis is very common, but we do have effective treatments for most people.

In general, there are three types of treatment: medications, physical activity and surgery.

Medications do bring relief to some. First-line treatment is often Tylenol, which is safe and effective for almost everybody. Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen (and many others) work well, but they have a risk of stomach bleeding and a higher but still small risk of kidney or liver damage. Medications also can be injected directly into the joint, which gives great relief for many people.

By “physical activity,” I mean using the affected joints. For hips and knees, that means walking. Almost everybody with arthritis gets better with walking, and though you should start small, you can build your strength and endurance, and reduce pain with regular exercise.

Finally, once the arthritis has progressed in such a way that other treatments don’t work, it’s time to consider surgery.

Drs. Donohue and Roach regret that they are unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may write the doctors or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers also may order health newsletters from

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