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Chromium: Its role in reducing blood sugar in patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes

By Lauren Mirkin, MS, CNS, LDN, LGPC
Licensed nutritionist

Many patients who develop pre-diabetes or diabetes have frequent cravings for sweet drinks such as regular or diet (artificially sweetened) soda or lemonade. They will also tend to eat high-sugar foods such as candy, cookies and pastries. Some will be “carb cravers” who feel they cannot live without large servings of starches such as bread, bagels and pasta on a daily basis.

Whenever patients reports these types of eating patterns to me during nutrition consultations, I will generally recommend they try chromium, an inexpensive mineral that helps the body use insulin more efficiently.


Why is chromium important?

Several nutrition researchers have noted that when people eat highly refined diets that include high amounts of sugar and other processed carbohydrates that require chromium for metabolism, they put themselves at risk for chromium deficiency and the development of diabetes.

Note: Chromium levels can be measured using specialized labs such as Spectracell. The company uses a process called functional intracellular analysis to measure the levels of chromium and other micronutrients within white blood cells.

Chromium is important in glucose metabolism because it is a critical component of glucose tolerance factor, a compound that helps insulin transport glucose from the blood to the cells. Chromium may also facilitate the binding of insulin to the cell membrane. A chromium deficiency can therefore result in insulin resistance.

Patients with type 2 diabetes tend to be deficient in chromium, although it is not clear whether this is a cause or a result of their condition. Since chromium potentiates insulin’s action, patients with elevated blood sugar can benefit from chromium supplementation.


Studies on chromium

Several studies have shown how chromium can benefit blood sugar levels. Here are two examples:

• Dr. Richard Anderson, a well-known mineral researcher with the USDA , found in a double-blind study involving 29 type 2 diabetics that 1000mcg per day of chromium improved insulin sensitivity.

Anderson, R. A. “Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes.” Diabetes and Metabolism (Paris) 26:1 (2000):22-27.

• In a placebo-controlled study involving 37 patients with type 2 diabetes who were on a sulfonylurea drug, researchers at the University of Vermont found that chromium supplementation significantly improved insulin sensitivity and glucose control and helped curb weight gain and abdominal obesity.

Martin, J., et al. “Chromium picolinate supplementation attenuates body weight gain and increases insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care (August 2006): 1826-1832.


What dosage and form are best?

• Start with 200 mcg. (micrograms) with breakfast and dinner. Another 200 mcg. can be added at lunch. Clinical studies have used up to 1000mcg. per day without toxicity or side effects.

• I usually recommend ChromeMate chromium polynicotinate. Another choice is chromium picolinate. Both these types of chromium have been in wide consumer use for more than 20years.


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