The blood sugar all-star no one is talking about
The article below was written for Newport Natural Health by Robert Iafelice, MS, RD, LDN. Learn more about Robert and our other experts here.
According to recent statistics from the CDC, nearly half of American adults have either diabetes or prediabetes!1 To make matters worse, the presence of diabetes confers a 2- to 4-fold increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.2
Needless to say, excess blood sugar is highly toxic. But higher than normal blood sugar becomes toxic long before it reaches diabetic and even prediabetic levels!3 The longer your blood sugar is elevated, the more time it has to inflict extensive damage to your cells and tissues.
The importance of keeping your blood sugar under control cannot be overemphasized. Besides diabetes and heart disease, cancer4,5 and Alzheimer’s disease6 are likewise linked to chronically high blood sugar. That pretty much covers every major killer disease of our modern world!
With our carb-centric American diet, it’s no easy task to maintain a tight grip on your blood sugar levels. Consider that a prominent national health and nutrition survey determined that thirteen percent of the population (or roughly 43 million people) consumes added sugars in an amount greater than 25% of their daily calories!7
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to snuff out those over-powering carb cravings and get your blood sugar under control…
Chromium: The Natural Insulin-Sensitizer
Chromium is an essential mineral that we require for the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Chromium works to keep your blood sugar levels in check!
Although its exact mechanism of action is uncertain, studies indicate that chromium acts as an insulin sensitizer. Basically, chromium improves insulin sensitivity by facilitating the binding of insulin to its receptors (“insulin docking stations”), which are present on the surface of nearly all cell membranes. This enhanced affinity of insulin for its receptors amplifies its signaling action to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream for uptake by the body’s cells.8,9 Thus, as an insulin sensitizing agent, chromium helps reverse insulin resistance.
Chromium Lowers Risk of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
When chromium is in short supply, blood glucose can become chronically elevated (hyperglycemia). As your body floods itself with insulin to help balance blood sugar levels, chronically elevated insulin (hyperinsulinemia) leads to insulinresistance. This is a situation where the body stops responding to insulin, so more and more is needed to signal to your cells to take up sugar and convert it to energy.
Insulin resistance in turn further promotes hyperinsulinemia, and a vicious cycle ensues10-12 Insulin resistance is a hallmark of diabetes and a huge risk factor for cardiovascular disease.13
Diets deficient in chromium as well as low levels of plasma chromium are associated with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.9,11,14-16 Low chromium concentrations in toenails (an indicator of long-term intake) increases the risk of heart attack in men.15
While a lack of chromium makes you more susceptible to diabetes and heart disease, supplementation with chromium helps to prevent and improve these conditions. In an analysis of U.S. adults who consumed dietary supplements, those individuals who regularly supplemented with chromium had substantially lower odds of having diabetes.17 Evidence from a systematic review of 22 studies suggests that chromium supplementation may lower average blood glucose and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.18
Bonus: Chromium Curbs Carb Cravings and Burns Body Fat
Beyond its impressive benefits in disease prevention, chromium comes with some nice bonus effects: it helps fight carb cravings and excess body fat.
Carbohydrate and sugar craving is a form of addiction mediated by the opioid system and associated feelings of pleasure. In fact, sugar-bingeing rats – but not fat-bingeing rats – exhibited opiate-like withdrawal symptoms when given a drug that blocks opioid receptors.19,20
For many years, integrative physicians have been helping their patients manage sugar cravings with chromium supplements.
So how exactly does chromium help you curb those persistent carb cravings?
You guessed it….Excess insulin triggers carbohydrate cravings too!12 Higher circulating insulin resulting from low levels of chromium cause blood sugar to drop too low, driving the urge for sugars and starches. Even insulin itself, independent of blood glucose levels, stimulates hunger.21 Not surprisingly, experimental suppression of insulin secretion significantly decreased carbohydrate cravings in obese adults.22
Scientific evidence demonstrates that chromium supplementation is a safe and effective way to help control carbohydrate and sugar cravings. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, adult subjects who received a daily supplement of 600 mcg of chromium for eight weeks showed significant improvements in carbohydrate cravings and appetite regulation.23
Similarly, when compared to a placebo group, overweight women with carbohydrate cravings who took 1,000 mcg of chromium daily for eight weeks reported reduced food intake and hunger levels.24 Chromium is also effective for reducing binge eating.25
As for body fat…
Since chromium helps insulin to function more efficiently, less of the hormone is needed and serum levels decrease. While high insulin levels favor fat storage, low insulin enables fat burning. Successful long-term weight loss strongly correlates with enhanced insulin sensitivity.26 Current evidence indicates that chromium supplementation is associated with significant reductions in body fat percentage in overweight/obese individuals.27
The Critical Need for Chromium Supplements
Although chromium is found in a great variety of foods (e.g., meats, whole grains, broccoli, grape juice) and is needed in only trace amounts, many people still do not get enough chromium. This may be due to poor chromium absorption (0.4% – 2.5%) and substantially decreased content of the mineral in foods resulting from agriculture and food processing. Furthermore, excessive sugar, as well as exercise, stress, and advancing age, increase chromium losses in the urine.28
Adults in the U.S. take in an average of only 31 to 42 mcg of chromium per day from food.28 In contrast, most clinical studies demonstrating the health benefits and safety of chromium use supplements that contain 200 to 400 mcg.
When you consider its important health benefits, widespread deficiency, and poor bioavailability, chromium should clearly be included in everyone’s arsenal of supplements.
While a variety of chromium products are commercially available, one unique and advanced formulation has important advantages over the rest…
Crominex 3+ – A Cutting-Edge Chromium Complex
Crominex 3+ is a synergistic formulation that blends a bioactive form of chromium with two standardized herbal extracts: amla (or Indian gooseberry) and shilajit (a sticky organic substance found primarily on rocks high up in the Himalayan mountains). Since chromium is highly reactive and susceptible to oxidation into a toxic form, the addition of these two herbal extracts with protective antioxidant properties helps to stabilize chromium, as well as enhance its effects.29
[Note: The “3+” refers to trivalent chromium – the biologically active form of chromium found in food].
Amla extracts, derived from the fruit of the Emblica officinalis plant, are powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.30 Like chromium, amla possesses antidiabetic activity. By blocking the action of various digestive enzymes that convert starch to sugar in the gut, amla extract helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar following meals. Amla also protects cells and tissues against glycation – the bonding of sugars to proteins and fats resulting in the formation of toxic compounds that damage cells and tissues throughout the body.31
Shilajit is a mineral-rich, gummy substance found mainly among the layers of rocks in the Himalayas. It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as a potent tonic and natural remedy for various ailments including diabetes.32 Through its antioxidant activity, shilajit has been shown to minimize drug-induced hyperglycemia in rats.32 It also enhances the efficient metabolism of blood sugar in the mitochondria (“energy factories”) of the cell.33
Placebo-controlled clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes29,34,35 and metabolic36 syndrome provide evidence of the efficacy of Crominex 3+. In one of the trials, treatment with 400 mcg of Crominex 3+ for 12 weeks helped lower hemoglobin A1c 111% better than placebo in type 2 diabetic patients.34 In a separate study, type 2 diabetic patients who took Crominex 3+ as an adjunct therapy along with conventional antidiabetic drugs experienced a 51% better reduction in A1c than patients who were treated with the drug only.29
Importantly, 400 mcg of Crominex 3+ for three months was more effective in improving several health biomarkers in type 2 diabetics than other forms of chromium including chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, and chromium dinicocysteinate, as well as the combination of alma and shilajit extracts (the two other components in Crominex 3+).35 These improvements in health biomarkers included:
- Reduction in hemoglobin A1c (reflects average blood sugar over 2-3 months)
- Increase in nitric oxide (promotes circulation)
- Reduction in C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation)
- Improvement in endothelial function (marker of vascular health)[MK1]
- Reduction in oxidative stress (excess free radicals)
- Increase in glutathione (critical antioxidant)
Also noteworthy, the results from the treatment with Crominex 3+ were much more significant than the sum of the results from the individual components of Crominex 3+.35 This finding substantiates the exceptional synergistic activity of Crominex 3+.
This unique and powerful synergy of chromium with amla and shilajit enables Crominex 3+ to optimize blood sugar control and its favorable effects on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, carbohydrate cravings, and body composition.
Complementary Compounds for Blood Sugar Control
Many nutrients and herbs work more effectively as supplements when teamed up with other natural compounds with similar properties. Different nutrients utilize different mechanisms to achieve the same outcomes. In addition, some people may respond better to a particular nutrient and less favorably to others. Lastly, a lower dose of each individual nutrient may be needed to attain the same effect that would be achieved with a higher dose when used alone.
Berberine, Gymnema sylvestre extract, and alpha-lipoic acid are natural compounds that may be used to complement the blood sugar controlling benefits of chromium.
Berberine is an alkaloid compound derived from the ancient Chinese herb, Coptis chinensis Franch, which has been used as a natural remedy for diabetes for thousands of years.37 In a study in type 2 diabetics, berberine’s effect on lowering blood sugar was similar to that of metformin – the first choice medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.37 Berberine is also effective at decreasing triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in diabetic patients.37,38
Like berberine, extracts of the Gymnema sylvestre plant have been used to treat diabetes for centuries.39 Research shows that treatment of type 239,40 and even type 141 diabetics with Gymnema sylvestre results in significant reductions in blood glucose and increased plasma insulin levels. These effects induced by Gymnema may in part be attributed to regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Five of 22 diabetic patients in one study were able to come off their drug therapies and maintain control of blood sugar with Gymnema alone.40
Alpha lipoic acid is a naturally occurring compound and potent antioxidant. In diabetes, it enhances glucose uptake and increases insulin sensitivity.42,43 In one study, supplementation with 400 mg/day of alpha-lipoic acid for four weeks significantly reduced a marker of oxidative stress and improved HDL cholesterol levels.44 Alpha-lipoic acid may also slow the development of free radical-induced diabetic complications, particularly peripheral neuropathy.45
Chronically elevated blood sugar is associated with adverse health consequences. While high blood sugar is characteristic of diabetes, it also likely plays a role in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that enhances the actions of insulin in controlling blood sugar levels. However, suboptimal dietary intake of chromium is common and high-sugar diets promote loss of chromium in the urine. Studies have shown that chromium supplementation is beneficial in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Chromium is also proven to diminish carbohydrate and sugar cravings, and help burn body fat.
Crominex 3+ is a superior synergistic blend of chromium and two antioxidant herbal extracts that help to enhance and stabilize the chromium. Crominex 3+ was clinically tested to be more effective than other forms of chromium including chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate.
Furthermore, the greater efficacy of Crominex 3+ can be given an additional synergistic boost by teaming it with other potent blood sugar controlling compounds such as berberine, Gymnema sylvestre, and alpha-lipoic acid. So don’t wait until your blood sugar gets out of control. Be proactive and capitalize on the impressive benefits of Crominex 3+.
- CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report. 2020; https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/statistics-report.html. Accessed February 19, 2020, 2020.
- Bertoluci MC, Rocha VZ. Cardiovascular risk assessment in patients with diabetes. Diabetology & metabolic syndrome. 2017;9:25.
- Nichols GA, Hillier TA, Brown JB. Normal fasting plasma glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes diagnosis. The American journal of medicine. 2008;121(6):519-524.
- Ramteke P, Deb A, Shepal V, Bhat MK. Hyperglycemia Associated Metabolic and Molecular Alterations in Cancer Risk, Progression, Treatment, and Mortality. Cancers. 2019;11(9).
- Orgel E, Mittelman SD. The links between insulin resistance, diabetes, and cancer. Current diabetes reports. 2013;13(2):213-222.
- Kim B, Backus C, Oh S, Feldman EL. Hyperglycemia-induced tau cleavage in vitro and in vivo: a possible link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD. 2013;34(3):727-739.
- Slavin J, Carlson J. Carbohydrates. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md). 2014;5(6):760-761.
- Cefalu WT, Wang ZQ, Zhang XH, Baldor LC, Russell JC. Oral chromium picolinate improves carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and enhances skeletal muscle Glut-4 translocation in obese, hyperinsulinemic (JCR-LA corpulent) rats. The Journal of nutrition. 2002;132(6):1107-1114.
- Rafiei R, Habyby Z, Fouladi L, Najafi S, Asgary S, Torabi Z. Chromium level in prediction of diabetes in pre-diabetic patients. Advanced biomedical research. 2014;3:235.
- Moradi F, Maleki V, Saleh-Ghadimi S, Kooshki F, Pourghassem Gargari B. Potential roles of chromium on inflammatory biomarkers in diabetes: A Systematic. Clinical and experimental pharmacology & physiology. 2019;46(11):975-983.
- Chen S, Jin X, Shan Z, et al. Inverse Association of Plasma Chromium Levels with Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study. Nutrients. 2017;9(3).
- Heller RF, Heller RF. Hyperinsulinemic obesity and carbohydrate addiction: the missing link is the carbohydrate frequency factor. Medical hypotheses. 1994;42(5):307-312.
- Singh B, Saxena A. Surrogate markers of insulin resistance: A review. World journal of diabetes. 2010;1(2):36-47.
- Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes & metabolism. 2000;26(1):22-27.
- Hummel M, Standl E, Schnell O. Chromium in metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Hormone and metabolic research = Hormon- und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et metabolisme. 2007;39(10):743-751.
- Ngala RA, Awe MA, Nsiah P. The effects of plasma chromium on lipid profile, glucose metabolism and cardiovascular risk in type 2 diabetes mellitus. A case – control study. PloS one. 2018;13(7):e0197977.
- McIver DJ, Grizales AM, Brownstein JS, Goldfine AB. Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Is Lower in US Adults Taking Chromium-Containing Supplements. The Journal of nutrition. 2015;145(12):2675-2682.
- Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Yuwanakorn A. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics. 2014;39(3):292-306.
- Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Sugar and fat bingeing have notable differences in addictive-like behavior. The Journal of nutrition. 2009;139(3):623-628.
- Mysels DJ, Sullivan MA. The relationship between opioid and sugar intake: review of evidence and clinical applications. Journal of opioid management. 2010;6(6):445-452.
- Chandler-Laney PC, Morrison SA, Goree LL, et al. Return of hunger following a relatively high carbohydrate breakfast is associated with earlier recorded glucose peak and nadir. Appetite. 2014;80:236-241.
- Velasquez-Mieyer PA, Cowan PA, Arheart KL, et al. Suppression of insulin secretion is associated with weight loss and altered macronutrient intake and preference in a subset of obese adults. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 2003;27(2):219-226.
- Docherty JP, Sack DA, Roffman M, Finch M, Komorowski JR. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. Journal of psychiatric practice. 2005;11(5):302-314.
- Anton SD, Morrison CD, Cefalu WT, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes technology & therapeutics. 2008;10(5):405-412.
- Brownley KA, Von Holle A, Hamer RM, La Via M, Bulik CM. A double-blind, randomized pilot trial of chromium picolinate for binge eating disorder: results of the Binge Eating and Chromium (BEACh) study. Journal of psychosomatic research. 2013;75(1):36-42.
- Clamp LD, Hume DJ, Lambert EV, Kroff J. Enhanced insulin sensitivity in successful, long-term weight loss maintainers compared with matched controls with no weight loss history. Nutrition & diabetes. 2017;7(6):e282.
- Tsang C, Taghizadeh M, Aghabagheri E, Asemi Z, Jafarnejad S. A meta-analysis of the effect of chromium supplementation on anthropometric indices of subjects with overweight or obesity. Clinical obesity. 2019;9(4):e12313.
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Chromium. 2019; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed February 14, 2020, 2020.
- Tuhin BK PG, Pandit S, Pratip DK, Somoresh M, Biswajit A, Banerjee D, Bhattacharyya S, Debasish P, Ghosal S. . Effects of adjunct therapy of a proprietary herbo-chromium supplement in type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical trial. Int J Diab Dev Ctries. 2010;30(3):153-161.
- Golechha M, Sarangal V, Ojha S, Bhatia J, Arya DS. Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Emblica officinalis in Rodent Models of Acute and Chronic Inflammation: Involvement of Possible Mechanisms. International journal of inflammation. 2014;2014:178408.
- Nampoothiri SV, Prathapan A, Cherian OL, Raghu KG, Venugopalan VV, Sundaresan A. In vitro antioxidant and inhibitory potential of Terminalia bellerica and Emblica officinalis fruits against LDL oxidation and key enzymes linked to type 2 diabetes. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. 2011;49(1):125-131.
- Agarwal SP, Khanna R, Karmarkar R, Anwer MK, Khar RK. Shilajit: a review. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2007;21(5):401-405.
- Surapaneni DK, Adapa SR, Preeti K, Teja GR, Veeraragavan M, Krishnamurthy S. Shilajit attenuates behavioral symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and mitochondrial bioenergetics in rats. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2012;143(1):91-99.
- Rani PU SI, Fatima N, Muralidhar N, Salomi R. Study of Crominex 200mcg, 400mcg and Placebo in modifying cardiovascular risk with special reference to Endothelial dysfunction in patients with Type2 Diabetes Mellitus. 2013.
- Rani PU SI, Kumar CU, Kishore KK, Devi CG. . Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study to evaluate the effect of a proprietary chromium complex and its individual components in comparison to chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate and chromium dinicocysteinate on endothelial function and lipid profile in type 2 diabetics. 2016.
- Rani PU SI, Fatima N, Muralidhar N, Salomi R. . Study of Crominex 200mcg, 400mcg and Placebo in subjects with Metabolic Syndrome. 2014.
- Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 2008;57(5):712-717.
- Zhang Y, Li X, Zou D, et al. Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 2008;93(7):2559-2565.
- Al-Romaiyan A, Liu B, Asare-Anane H, et al. A novel Gymnema sylvestre extract stimulates insulin secretion from human islets in vivo and in vitro. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2010;24(9):1370-1376.
- Baskaran K, Kizar Ahamath B, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Shanmugasundaram ER. Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 1990;30(3):295-300.
- Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, Rajesh Kumar BR, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Kizar Ahmath B. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 1990;30(3):281-294.
- Ansar H, Mazloom Z, Kazemi F, Hejazi N. Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on blood glucose, insulin resistance and glutathione peroxidase of type 2 diabetic patients. Saudi medical journal. 2011;32(6):584-588.
- Jacob S, Ruus P, Hermann R, et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free radical biology & medicine. 1999;27(3-4):309-314.
- Gianturco V, Bellomo A, D’Ottavio E, et al. Impact of therapy with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) on the oxidative stress in the controlled NIDDM: a possible preventive way against the organ dysfunction? Archives of gerontology and geriatrics. 2009;49 Suppl 1:129-133.
- Gomes MB, Negrato CA. Alpha-lipoic acid as a pleiotropic compound with potential therapeutic use in diabetes and other chronic diseases. Diabetology & metabolic syndrome. 2014;6(1):80.