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Can a Mix of Chromium and Biotin Help Diabetics Control Blood Sugar?

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 15, 2001 -- Chromium picolinate has been touted for years -- as an energy booster, and as a nutritional supplement to help people with type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar levels under control. A new study suggests adding a vitamin called biotin to chromium picolinate may be even more helpful, although one expert is not convinced.

Among the suggested benefits: "significantly better" blood sugars, better cholesterol levels, as well as somewhat less fatigue and depression in people with type 2 diabetes, says study author James Komorowski, MS, director of research and development at Nutrition 21 in Purchase, NY.

Nutrition 21, the company that sponsored the study, also is the leading developer and marketer of chromium-based nutritional supplements.

Chromium, found primarily in organ meats and whole grains, is an essential mineral the body needs to process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, Komorowski tells WebMD. Many Americans get less chromium than they need, and while some multivitamins contain the mineral, it's typically in very low doses. Recently, the RDA for a healthy adult was set at 35 to 40 mcg.

"Chromium is necessary for glucose metabolism, yet it is very poorly absorbed if you get it from food in the diet or vitamin supplements," says Komorowski. Only 0.5% of chromium fluoride -- a common form of chromium -- is absorbed into the bloodstream. Chromium picolinate is absorbed five to 10 times better, he tells WebMD.

People with diabetes may have much lower chromium levels in their bodies than others, Komorowski says. His company has published 11 clinical studies showing that giving diabetics extra chromium in the form of chromium picolinate helps them control blood sugar levels.

This study involved 34 people with type 2 diabetes. For 12 weeks, all got two daily servings of a nutritional shake with "moderate amounts of carbohydrates," similar to drinks marketed to diabetics, he says. During the study, participants were randomly assigned to receive either a shake containing the chromium picolinate-biotin mix or a plain shake used for comparison. Participants did not know which type of shake they were receiving.

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