Washington. DC (November 1, 1997)- Chromium supplements appear beneficial in the treatment of type II diabetes, suggest the results of a placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted in China. The final results of a study appear in the current issue of the medical journal Diabetes.
The USDA sponsored study was designed to determine whether supplemental chromium could help in the control of type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes. One-hundred and eighty men and women in China who were already being treated for type II diabetes received either placebo, 100 mcg (micrograms) of chromium two times per day, or 500 mcg of chromium two times per day. The volunteers continued to take their normal medications and were asked not to change their normal eating and living habits.
Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) values improved significantly after 2 months in the group receiving 1,000 mcg/day of chromium. The test is a measure of how well glucose is metabolized, and is considered a gold standard in medicine. These values were lower in both chromium groups after 4 months. Fasting glucose levels were lower in the high-dose group after 2 and 4 months. Two-hour glucose values were also significantly lower for the high dose chromium group after both 2 and 4 months. In addition, fasting and two-hour insulin values decreased significantly in both groups receiving supplemental chromium after 2 and 4 months. Moreover, plasma total cholesterol also decreased after 4 months in the subjects receiving the high dose of chromium.
"These data demonstrate that supplemental chromium had significant beneficial effects on HbA1c, glucose, insulin, and cholesterol variables in subjects with type 2 diabetes. The beneficial effects of chromium in individuals with diabetes were observed at levels higher than the upper limit of the Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake," the researchers note.
Both the high- and low-dose chromium groups had a significant drop in plasma insulin just two months after beginning the supplements and a further drop at four months. People with type II, or maturity-onset, diabetes produce more insulin than normal in the early stages of the disease, because the insulin is less efficient at clearing glucose from the blood. Chromium apparently makes the hormone more efficient.
The study was a collaboration between USDA investigator Dr. Richard Anderson and Dr. Nanzheng Cheng. Cheng--a former visiting scientist in Anderson's laboratory--and her sister Nanping Cheng, a physician in Beijing. The study participants were recruited at three Beijing hospitals.
In the U.S., it's possible that people with diabetes would need higher levels of chromium to realize similar improvements because Americans are larger than the Chinese and eat more fat and sugar. All of these factors raise the requirement for chromium. No other studies have seen consistent improvements with 200 mcg.
Anderson also said he has maintained rats on daily doses of chromium picolinate or an inorganic form of the mineral several thousand times above the highest suggested intake for humans with no adverse effects on the sensitive organs.
There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance for chromium. The estimated safe and adequate dietary intake is between 50 and 200 mcg daily. Most Americans consume less than 50 mcg, Anderson said. He has analyzed well-balanced diets prepared by dietitians and found them to contain only about 33 mcg per day.
The study results appear in Diabetes, November 1997, Volume 46, Number 11
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