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Chromium Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels?

Question: Does taking chromium help lower blood sugar levels?

Chromium is an element that is abundant on the earth’s crust and in seawater. It exists in many forms and is found in egg yolks, whole-grain products, high bran breakfast cereals, coffee, nuts, green beans, broccoli, meat, brewer’s yeast, some brands of wine and beer, and in multivitamin preparations. The recommended daily dietary allowance for chromium in humans aged seven years and above is 50 to 200 ucg/day.

History reveals that the first link of chromium with diabetes was first observed among hospitalized patients in the 1950’s who were given nutrition sources that lacked chromium which led to elevation in blood sugar levels. Whereas the role of chromium replacement in people with chromium deficiency is already proven to be beneficial for carbohydrate metabolism; its role as a supplement to bring down blood sugar among diabetics is still vague. The fact is that chromium levels vary even among normal subjects and can actually decrease with age, stress, pregnancy, strenuous exercise, infection and trauma. The tests to check for chromium levels mainly involve specimens from toe nails, hair, or sweat because this trace element exists at low concentrations in the blood, making it difficult to quantify.

Researches were done as early as the 1950’s looking into the role of dietary intake of chromium on blood sugar levels. During the past few years, the effects of chromium on harvested cells (in-vitro studies) or animals have been subject of many researches in attempts to shed light on how chromium might Improve the metabolism of sugar, fats and proteins. The observed mechanisms are complex varying from changes in proteins inside the cells to improvement in signalling or “communication” between cells. The different dosages and formulations or sources of chromium appear to have variable effects on the cells of the body. Just like in typical drug studies, these initial researches led to trials on lab animals, on normal humans, and eventually on diabetic patients.

To date, several studies using chromium in diabetic patients and comparing its effect to a “dummy pill” (or placebo) in terms of improving blood sugar level, cholesterol level, body weight, and reducing the dose requirement of antidiabetic agents, among others, have been published in international scientific journals. Some showed improvement, including lowering blood sugar levels in type 1 DM, type 2 DM, diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or drug-induced diabetes (steroids); while others showed no clear benefit.

The inconsistency of the results and the lack of strong evidence showing better control of diabetes or prevention of complications among diabetics led experts worldwide to conclude that chromium supplementation cannot be recommended as part of routine management of diabetes for now. The data may be promising, but when it comes to a life-threatening disease with numerous complications and global increase in number of victims such as diabetes — a “half-truth” is just too big a gamble in the game of life.

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