Chromium Picolinate & Diabetes

David Mendosa Health Guide March 13, 2007
  • I’m almost ready to retract.Sometimes I write or speak too soon. I know that none of you do that, but sometimes my fingers and my tongue work faster than my mind.

     

    I am not talking about the article that I wrote two years ago blasting “The Mangosteen Myth”. Nothing else that I ever wrote generated so much hate mail. But it was worth it.

     

    No, I refer instead to a somewhat more balanced article that I wrote in 2003, “Chromium: Perhaps Good, Perhaps Harmful” .  I reported then that some experts think that chromium picolinate, the most common form, might harm individuals with depression, bipolar disease, or schizophrenia.

     

    A report of a severe skin reaction caused by chromium picolinate is another concern. It is also possible, but not proven, that chromium picolinate could cause adverse effects on DNA. And according to a CNN report, “case reports have linked chronic use of 600 micrograms or more per day [of chromium] to kidney and muscle damage.”

     

    I don’t know of any new information that would alleviate those concerns. But a pilot study clearly shows that a combination of chromium picolinate and biotin can help people with poorly controlled diabetes to improve blood glucose levels.

     

    The study came out in the December 2006 issue of Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. The authors, Gregory M. Singer and Jeff Geohas, call it “The effect of chromium picolinate and biotin supplementation on glycemic control in poorly controlled patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized trial.”

     

    Dr. Singer, who teaches at the Yale University School of Medicine, was kind enough to send me a copy of his article when I asked him. An abstract is online.The study was sound – a 30-day, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized one. The 36 participants in the study got 600 micrograms of chromium picolinate and 2 mg of biotin or a placebo. Note that the dosage was the same as the high one that caused some people to suffer kidney and muscle damage. But none of the people in the study reported any serious adverse events.

     

    Since this was a short study, Drs. Singer and Geohas found it impractical to use A1C tests to judge how well the chromium and biotin worked. The A1C measures blood glucose levels over a 2 to 3 month period.

     

    Instead, they used the fructosamine test, which measures blood glucose levels over the previous 3 weeks. The difference between the treatment and placebo groups was significant. On average those in treatment dropped from a fructosamine level of 377 to 353. But those in the placebo group got worse, going from 342 to 355.

     

    If my blood glucose levels were less well controlled, this new study might persuade me to add chromium picolinate to the arsenal of supplements I take. But I’m not quite ready to retract my concerns about its safety.