A supplement containing chromium picolinate and biotin significantly reduced elevated blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes after only twelve weeks, reported researchers at the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Congress in Paris last week.
The 'Patient Experience Program' (PEP), a small trial funded by US company Nutrition 21, tested the effects of its supplement Diachrome in 'real-life' settings, with 30 subjects with elevated glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels above the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) recommendation of 7 per cent or less, provided with educational materials, glucose monitors, and daily supplements of Diachrome, while continuing their prescription medications. HbA1c is a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
Each subject recorded his or her individual compliance and daily blood sugar test results. After 12 weeks, there was a significant reduction of 1.1 in average HbA1c levels. Eighteen PEP participants who had baseline HbA1c levels above 8 per cent, showed 1.8 decrease, which represented a greater than average reduction, reported the researchers last week.
Chromium picolinate supplements, Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in food in the US, are widely available in the US but in Europe the supplement looks set to be outlawed if the recent EVM report from the UK informs forthcoming European legislation. Nutrition 21, which has pioneered much of the research on its effects in treating diabetes, claims it is a safe and cost-effective complementary therapy in diabetes care and is currently working to submit the necessary scientific dossiers to ensure that chromium picolinate is included on the EU's approved list of nutrients for use in supplements.
"The positive outcomes from PEP combined with encouraging pre-clinical data on Diachrome, served as the catalysts for Nutrition 21 to invest in a major clinical study to be completed in June 2004," said Gail Montgomery, president and CEO of Nutrition 21.
The 600-patient double-blind placebo-controlled study will seek to confirm the benefits of the supplement in people with type 2 diabetes in their management of glucose and cholesterol, when used in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatments.
Last week's congress also heard a new theory explaining the potential mechanism behind chromium picolinate's ability to improve insulin resistance in human skeletal muscle - the primary site for glucose metabolism.
New research shows that the potential in vivo mechanism of chromium picolinate on insulin action in human skeletal muscle may occur by increasing the activation of Akt phosphorylation -- an intracellular insulin dependent protein that facilitates the uptake of glucose into cells, according to Dr William T. Cefalu from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in the US.
"This study demonstrates that those individuals with type 2 diabetes who supplemented their diet with chromium picolinate had an enhanced activity of the protein compared to those who were on placebo," said Dr Cefalu."As this intracellular pathway is implicated in contributing to insulin resistance, this represents a possible mechanism to explain chromium picolinate's beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity as observed in several clinical studies."
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects 194 million people worldwide. According to the IDF, if nothing is done to slow the epidemic, the number of people with diabetes will exceed 333 million by 2025. It is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment and the fourth main cause of death in adults in most developing countries.