Chromium and Diabetes

While chromium is often seen marketed as a weight loss supplement, it has a potentially more useful and better documented effect. Chromium assists insulin in processing blood sugar, and hence may be helpful to those with diabetes. Some research seems to at least marginally support this, and some is less certain. In this article, we'll look at the current research and see if chromium is indeed a good supplement for diabetics to use.

First, let's dive into the research that does not seem to support chromium and diabetes relation. In a 2006 double-blind study on obese patients with type 2 diabetes, no difference was found between the placebo group and the group taking chromium supplements.

And in a 2005 study published in the Archives of Medical Research, researchers reviewed previously conducted studies on chromium and diabetes and concluded that the current evidence is not conclusive. They further suggested that people may generally have inadequate diets and should focus on nutrition instead of trying to consume more micronutrients through supplementation. Despite this research, there is some evidence that shows positive results.

For instance, in Nutrition Today in 2005, an article was published that chromium is generally recognized as safe, and that it does improve insulin's effectiveness in diabetics. In the study, patients were given 900 micrograms (mcg) a day. Interestingly, this is above and beyond the current FDA daily recommended allowance, which was recently downgraded from 50 to 200 mcg a day, to 35 for men and 25 for women.

In addition to this, a 2004 study examined 39 elderly diabetics, each taking 200 mcg twice a day for three weeks. These were compared with 39 control patients who were not given the supplement. At the end of the study, the chromium group showed better glucose tolerance than the control group.

Chromium's primary nutritional mechanism is to "unlock" the cells and "assist" insulin in moving glucose into the cells to be used as energy. In this regard, and given the above research, there does seem to be a positive effect on diabetic patients. While we recommend consulting your doctor first before beginning any new treatment, especially with a serious disease like diabetes, supplementation with chromium is something worth exploring. Before purchasing a supplement, however, please see our section on chromium supplements.

Diabetes Care 2006;29:521-525

Arch Med Res. 2005 May-Jun;36(3):250-7

Nutrition Today. 40(4):189-195, July/August 2005