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Doctors Guide

Chromium May Help Obese People Avoid Diabetes

NEW YORK -- June 30, 1997 -- The results of a recent study demonstrate that daily supplementation with 1,000 micrograms of supplied as chromium picolinate significantly enhanced the action of insulin in moderately obese people with a high risk of developing type II (adult-onset) diabetes.

Insulin is the master metabolic hormone in our body and regulates blood sugar; chromium is an essential trace mineral required by humans in order for insulin to work properly. In persons with the most common form of diabetes the effects of insulin on lowering blood sugar are reduced. This decrease in effect is referred to as insulin resistance, and is now believed to be the primary defect in type II diabetes. Years before any signs or symptoms of diabetes are seen in these at-risk individuals (such as those with a family history of diabetes), insulin resistance has already taken a toll on their blood sugar control.

The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial directed by William Cefalu, M.D., director of the Diabetes Comprehensive Care and Research Program at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University. The results were presented at the 57th Annual Scientific Session of the American Diabetes Association Meeting in Boston, on June 23, 1997.

The subjects were 29 overweight individuals who also had a family history of diabetes. They received either a placebo or 1,000 micrograms (1 mg) of chromium daily. After four months, insulin resistance was reduced by a statistically significant 40%, and this improvement was maintained at the end of eight months.

Also examined in these subjects (using a sophisticated imaging technique) was the amount of abdominal fat present at the beginning and end of the study. The placebo group gained 6.5% abdominal fat while the chromium group gained just 1%. This difference was not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of persons in the trial.

"Even though only a small number of subjects were studied, the improvement in insulin sensitivity in chromium-supplemented subjects was quite significant and impressive," noted Dr. Cefalu. "This is a potentially important finding in light of the fact that insulin resistance often precedes type II diabetes. Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement that can reduce risk factors for the development of diabetes."

"Dr. Cefalu's findings are exciting and could prove to be of great importance if replicated in future studies," stated Richard Anderson, Ph.D., senior scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and a leading authority on dietary chromium. "They are certainly consistent with our findings which were reported at last year's ADA meeting: We found improved blood sugar control in a group of Chinese patients with type II diabetes who were supplemented with chromium."

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