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Supplements for Diabetes: Policosanol, Chromium Prove Ineffective

by  David Mendosa
Friday, June 09, 2006
My friends say I take so many pills that I shouldn’t have to eat. I do take quite a few vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements as well as a few prescription medicines.

Actually, until recently I have always eaten a lot. But it is Byetta rather than pills that is putting a damper on my appetite and has reduced my food intake to less than they feed prisoners.

And now I can stop one of the pills I have been taking and avoid taking another one that I had considered.

A German study published in the May 17, 2006, issue JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that policosanol, sold as a natural remedy for high cholesterol, doesn’t work.

The Germans studied 143 adults with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels of 150mg/dl or more. At random the people studied took doses of 10, 20, 40, and 80mg of policosanol or placebo. But when the study finished three months later, the researchers didn’t find any significant differences in the cholesterol levels of the people in the study.

I had thought that policosanol would help reduce cholesterol and wrote about it in my article on cholesterol. I took two of those 20mg pills after dinner every night for several years. I probably will keep on taking policosanol until my supply runs out, but I won’t buy any more. It certainly didn’t bring down my cholesterol level to where it should be.

The other pill is even better known than policosanol. It is the mineral chromium.

This time it is the Dutch who studied the pill. Eight M.D.s and Ph.Ds working in The Netherlands wrote in the March 2006 issue of Diabetes Care.

For six months they studied about 50 insulin-using type 2s who have high A1Cs and who weigh too much. The subjects took 500 or 1000 micrograms of chromium every day or a placebo. But the chromium didn’t lead to any better A1C levels than the placebo.

I had already had my doubts about chromium and voiced them in an article. But until this research came out, it had seemed that maybe I should consider taking chromium.

These articles look like good science. They are randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of a medical treatment. There isn’t any higher standard.

These studies aren’t perfect. The doses and the particular composition of what they are testing may be different from what you are taking. That could be the problem with contradictory studies of cinnamon that I recently reported here.

Still, it’s actually a relief to know that there are two pills we don’t need to take. We can still eat something instead.

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