Supplements in the News

Chromium and Biotin — Natural Blood Sugar Control
Published Thursday, May 15, 2008

By Maureen Williams, ND

Healthnotes Newswire (May 15, 2008)—In addition to eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, people with diabetes can sometimes limit their need for medications by taking certain nutritional supplements. A new study found that supplementing with chromium and biotin together improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes and obesity.

The study, published in Diabetes Metabolism Research Reviews, included 348 overweight or obese people with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. They received either a supplement providing 600 mcg of chromium (in the form of chromium picolinate) plus 2 mg of biotin or placebo once a day, in addition to whatever medications they were already using, for 90 days.

At the end of the study, people using chromium plus biotin had a 6% drop in fasting blood sugar levels—a good sign—while people in the placebo group had a slight increase. Levels of hemoglobin (Hb) A1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar control, decreased more in the supplement group than in the placebo group. People who started the trial with the highest levels of fasting blood sugar and HbA1c, indicating the most poorly controlled diabetes, had the most effect from chromium plus biotin.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes, diseases that often go hand in hand, are both related to a condition known as insulin resistance. People with insulin resistance progressively lose their ability to respond normally to insulin. Obese people tend to be more insulin resistant then people with normal weight, making their diabetes especially difficult to treat.

Chromium is widely used by people with diabetes to improve their insulin sensitivity and better manage their blood sugar, and a number of studies support this use. Biotin, part of the B complex of vitamins, plays an important role in blood sugar metabolism, and preliminary studies have suggested that biotin might enhance chromium’s effectiveness.

“Our findings show that chromium plus biotin can improve blood glucose control and reduce HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes, especially in those who have the poorest control,” commented study co-author Ira D. Goldfine, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco. “These effects could result in significant reductions in diabetes-related complications”

People with diabetes can go a long way toward improving their blood sugar control and preventing diabetes-related health problems by exercising regularly, avoiding refined grains and sugar, and eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and legumes. Based on the findings from this study, people might also discuss with their doctors whether adding an inexpensive supplement with chromium and biotin might take them even further.

(Diabetes Metab Res Rev 2008;24:41¬–51)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.


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