Chromium is a mineral that is essential for overall health, but using chromium to treat diabetes can be particularly effective. Chromium is commonly found in brewer's yeast, meats, chicken, shellfish (especially clams), corn oil, and whole grains.
How Chromium Works for Diabetes
Chromium and a nutrient called nicotinic acid (a form of niacin) are essential components of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which regulates the actions of insulin in the human body. When you eat food, your blood glucose levels rise significantly. If your cells are resistant to insulin, they can't accept glucose. And if glucose can't get into your cells to produce energy, the blood sugar will be stored in your body as fat. Chromium appears able to combat cellular insulin resistance, enabling your cells to use the glucose you produce from food.
Some studies have found that chromium supplementation decreases fasting glucose levels and improves glucose tolerance in the body. Chromium appears to work even more effectively if combined with supplements of niacin, its partner in the GTF.
In 1980, scientists at Columbia University in New York reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that chromium helped elderly people with diabetes who took it in the form of brewer's yeast. "Chromium-rich brewer's yeast improved glucose tolerance and cholesterol in elderly normal and diabetic subjects," the researchers noted. "An improvement in insulin sensitivity also occurred with chromium supplementation."
In addition, Victoria J. K. Liu, Ph.D., of Indiana's Purdue University, found that people with high insulin levels are much more likely to have low chromium levels. People with type 2 diabetes often have higher-than-normal insulin levels, but they are unable to use the insulin effectively. In some such people who have been given chromium, insulin and sugar levels went down.
Low Chromium Levels
It appears likely that the individuals who will benefit from chromium supplements are people with diabetes who are deficient in the mineral to begin with.
Some evidence indicates that a chromium intake between 50 and 200 micrograms is safe and should be enough to prevent deficiency. But by some estimates, in the United States, the average chromium intake of men is 33 micrograms and of women 25 micrograms.
Chromium levels, moreover, may be depleted in our bodies by strenuous exercise and physiological trauma, such as injuries, burns, and surgery. And as we grow older, our chromium supplies get lower and lower. Unfortunately, as we grow older, our bodies also become less capable of taking sugar from our blood to nourish our cells.
Chromium may also be able to speed the healing of wounds, which often plague people with diabetes. Liu conducted a study to compare the healing time between rats fed a low-chromium diet and those fed a high-chromium diet. Fifteen days after undergoing major surgery, rats taking chromium exhibited a much more significant rate of healing than their low-chromium counterparts.
In all 15 clinical studies of chromium and diabetes published up to 2006, at least one aspect of the disease was improved. Only two of these studies concluded chromium was not generally beneficial. There was some evidence that higher doses of chromium (1,000 micrograms per day) was more effective than lower doses, but you'll need to speak with your health-care provider about what dose will work best for you. Study results have been inconclusive when it comes to claims that chromium can aid weight loss.
Should You Take Chromium to Treat Diabetes?
For many people, chromium has been a godsend in their attempts to control their blood sugar levels. Some have even been able to integrate the supplement with diet and exercise in order to avoid having to take pharmaceutical drugs for diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, discuss chromium supplements with a physician who has experience with holistic treatments as well as traditional diabetes treatments. In the meantime, do not discontinue any prescribed medication for diabetes. If you and your doctor decide that chromium is worth a try, you will have to be monitored, because your diet and medication may need to be adjusted.
Keep in mind that chromium is not a magic bullet by any means. You'll still have to implement major changes in your diet and activity level in order to control your diabetes. But chromium may help you in your fight to regain good health.
Diabetes is a serious health risk that plagues millions of Americans. However, the home remedies and strategies in this article can help you manage the disease and live a healthy and rewarding life.
For more information about diabetes and how to control the digestive disorders associated with this condition, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- Bilberry, which can be used in pies, is also very effective in regulating blood sugar and managing diabetes. Learn more in Herbal Remedies for Diabetes.
- Find out how to manage your diabetes care and get the best results possible.
- When you read this straight-forward article, you'll understand how diabetes works.
- Read about how to adjust to life with diabetes, and get great ideas for lifestyle changes.
- Discover ways that you can control diabetes with exercise.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer GuideBoston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. (McGraw-Hill, 2004), and has written for publications including the
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at PennsylvaniaState University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.