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Chromium May Benefit Glucose Metabolism And Weight Loss in Diabetics

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:59pm

Chromium, a trace mineral, has been touted for many benefits including weight loss, sugar cravings and appetite control. For the most part these benefits were not sustained by clinical studies. Now, some recent research indicates that chromium picolinate, in combination with a common anti-diabetic medication, could improve blood sugar levels as well as cutting weight gain by 60 per cent. These are significant findings that support what many practitioners, including myself, have experienced in their work with Type 2 Diabetes (Metabolic Syndrome). Read more…

Chromium occurs naturally in small amounts in some foods, including brewer’s yeast, lean meat, cheese, pork kidney and whole grain bread and cereals. Chromium, through it’s potentiation of insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, is known to play an important role in how the body utilizes carbohydrate, fat and protein.

Tyoe 2 diabetes is now recognized as a component to a larger metabolic disease process which is characterized by high triglycerides, low levels of HDL (”good”) cholesterol, and in more severe cases, high blood pressure. Originally coined as “Syndrome X” by Dr Gerald Reavens from Stanford Medical School, it is now more commonly referred to as Metabolic Syndrome or Insulin Resistance. The body’s chronic resistance to insulin on a cellular level, brought on by too many sugars and refined carbohydrates, obesity in some individuals, and lack of exercise and stress, produces a metabolic shift in the body that results in the health issues noted above.

In a new randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study(1), led by Julie Martin from the University of Vermont, chromium supplementation, combined with a medication often prescribed for diabetics, sulfonylurea, demonstrated positive benefits in reducing body fat and total weight. Body composition (fat and lean muscle mass), insulin sensitivity, and glycemic control (blood sugar levels) were measured at the start of the study, at the end of the three-month medication plus placebo stage, and then again at the end of the study.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that people receiving the chromium supplements gained significantly less weight than those in the placebo group (0.9 kg versus 2.2 kg, respectively). Body weight and total abdominal fat also improved in the supplemented group, compared to placebo.

Martin and her colleagues also report that insulin sensitivity improved for the group receiving the chromium picolinate supplements. “This study demonstrates that chromium picolinate supplementation in subjects with type-2 diabetes who are taking sulfonylurea agents significantly improves insulin sensitivity and glucose control,” wrote Martins. “Further, chromium picolinate supplementation significantly attenuated body weight gain and visceral (abdominal) fat accumulation compared with the placebo group,” she concluded.

Since chromium is a trace mineral, and a metal that can easily cause health problems if overdosed, caution must be taken when self prescribing. It is best to keep your chromium to no more than 200 mcg daily if you are not under the care of an experienced practitioner. Doses 600 mcg and more have been reported to cause kidney failure.

It is also important to note that some studies using chromium picolinate actually resulted in adverse reactions. There is one report of a 24-year-old body builder who developed rhadomyolysis (massive muscle breakdown) after ingesting 1,200 micrograms of chromium in the form of chromium picolinate. Acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (sudden onset skin pustule eruptions) was reported to be associated with the use of chromium picolinate(2). A case of interstitial nephritis (kidney inflammation) was reported to occur five months after a subject received a six-week course of 600 micrograms of chromium in the form of chromium picolinate daily. Another report described anemia, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), liver dysfunction, renal failure and weight loss after the use of 1,200-2,400 micrograms of chromium picolinate daily for four to five months(3). While these are not common side effects associated with chromium picolinate, it is enough to warrant caution.

After reviewing the benefits of chromium nicotinate (niacin bound chromium), I am convinced that it is the preferred form of chromium to supplement with. Chromium nicotinate, does not have any adverse reactions(4) associated with it and it is a bioavailable form of chromium that naturally supports the synthesis of Glucose Tolerance Factor(5) (GTF). GTF is a water-soluble complex containing chromium and nicotinate needed for normal glucose tolerance.

1. Diabetes Care (Vol. 29, pp. 1826-1832)

2. Acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis induced by chromium picolinate. Young PC, Turiansky GW, Bonner MW, Benson PM
J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999; 41(5 pt 2):820-823.

3. Chronic renal failure after ingestion of over-the-counter chromium picolinate [letter]. Wasser WG, Feldman NS, D’Agati VD.
Ann Intern Med. 1997; 126:410.

4. Safety and toxicological evaluation of a novel niacin-bound chromium (III) complex.
Shara M, Yasmin T, Kincaid AE, Limpach AL, Bartz J, Brenneman KA,
Chatterjee A, Bagchi M, Stohs SJ, Bagchi D.
J Inorg Biochem. 2005 Nov;99(11):2161-83. Epub 2005 Sep 19.Click here to read

5. Evidence for synergism between chromium and nicotinic acid in the control of glucose tolerance in elderly humans.
Urberg M, Zemel MB. Metabolism. 1987 Sep;36(9):896-9.

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