Chromium – the Insulin Helper

The name of the game for both weight and diabetes control is to keep insulin levels naturally low, maintaining blood sugar control. But, as you’ve seen, we often become increasingly insulin insensitive or resistant. That’s where the essential mineral chromium makes all the difference

The Evidence for Chromium Reversing Diabetes Not only is low chromium status associated with an increased prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, there’s lots of good quality research showing that chromium helps to restore blood-sugar balance in diabetics, better and faster than the most commonly prescribed anti-diabetes drug metformin. A 2007 review of over 40 randomized controlled trials found that giving Type 2 diabetics chromium improves their fasting blood sugar levels and also decreases glycosylated haemoglobin levels (another measure of poor sugar control). In the words of the reviewers “Among participants with type 2 diabetes, chromium supplementation improved glycosylated haemoglobin levels and fasting glucose. Chromium supplementation significantly improved glycaemia among patients with diabetes.” [1]

This study, published in the highly respectable journal Diabetes Care, found that the best effects were seen with chromium picolinate (which is much better absorbed than cheaper forms of inorganic chromium, such as chromium chloride) in doses of 400-1000mcg per day. Despite being more than eight times the current recommended daily allowance, there are no known side effects at levels of up to 100 times greater than this.

A landmark study in 1997, looked at 120 Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes, 60 of whom were given 200µg chromium per day and 60 of whom were given 1000µg per day. After just 2 months, significant improvements were seen in glucose control, in both groups. After 4 months, there was almost 30% reduction in glucose levels in the higher dosage group. [2] Figure 17 – The effect of chromium on blood sugar and insulin resistance A larger study in 1999 followed over 800 diabetics who were taking insulin or anti-hyperglycaemic drugs. [3] The patients were given 500 µg chromium per day for 9 months, and after just 1 month, fasting and post-meal glucose levels had significantly fallen. At the end of the 9 months, 90% of patients reported a decrease in fatigue, thirst and the need for frequent urination.

More recently a double-blind placebo-controlled study randomly assigned 42 overweight adult women with carbohydrate cravings to receive chromium or placebo for 8 weeks. Chromium, as compared to placebo, reduced food intake, hunger levels, and fat cravings and decreased body weight. [4] That’s just about everything you could ever hope for. Also, in many studies benefits are seen within a month so you don’t have to wait long. [5] In my experience, if you also take cinnamon extract and follow a low GL diet you’ll experience a considerable improvement on blood sugar control in a matter of days, not weeks.

How much chromium do you need? The majority of studies showing improvements in glucose control have used quantities of over 400µg/day, although in two studies improvements in insulin sensitivity have still been reported in those taking just 200µg/day. [6] Most available chromium supplements in health food stores provide 200µg, but in relation to diabetes or pre-diabetes, a daily intake of 400 to 600µg may be more appropriate.

There is some debate about the best form of chromium. Is it chromium picolinate, or chromium polynicotinate...

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