Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chromium for Diabetes

Chromium has been identified for a very long time as an essential component of the Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), enabling the body to transport glucose out of the bloodstream into cells where it's needed.

The problem with proving this scientifically has been, it's hard to prove anything (by modern standards) by studying just a few people, even if you do the study right. A meta-analytic review of 36 studies found that taking chromium (and I'll comment on how much in just a moment) on average lowered blood glucose levels by 0.8 mmol/L, or in the terms most non-scientists use, 15 mg/dl or so.

Moreover, while no scientist has found that taking chromium lowers your "bad" LDL cholesterol, two studies have found it can greatly increase the "good" HDL cholesterol.

The thing is, sometimes taking less chromium works better than taking more, but taking brewer's yeast (a natural food that contains chromium but delivers a lower amount of it) is even better.

This means if you come across a supplement that promises "New! Improved! More Chromium!" you shouldn't buy it.Further complicating the understanding is the fact that for chromium, as for so many aspects of diabetes, what works in one situation doesn't necessarily work in another.

There's some research that finds that the body wastes chromium, that is, flushes it out into the urine, when it's fed a high glycemic index diet (lots of sugar, flour, rice).

And along those lines, there's other research that suggests that chromium only works for people who really need it, that is, who have especially severe insulin resistance. If you have just a "touch of diabetes," it may not help you.

But if you don't have either diabetes or prediabetes, your fasting blood sugars go down slightly if you provide you body with as little as a 10 microgram daily dose.So does chromium help you or not?

The bottom line of over 400 research studies we've leafed through seems to be that a combination of chromium and the B-vitamin biotin may be helpful for overweight type 2 diabetics at an early stage of treatment. It probably will lower blood sugars 15 mg/dl (0.9 mmol/L) within the first month you take it, but it won't keep on lowering them once your body has all the chromium it needs.

As for helping you lose weight, well, sorry, that effect seems to be due to diarrhea when you take both chromium and metformin or diabetes drugs in the sulfonylurea class. At least the diarrhea is temporary. So's the weight loss.Taking chromium won't do for you what diet, drugs, and insulin can. Getting control over what you're eating and how much you weight is much more important. But chromium can help you get started.

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