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Open Access Research article

Chromium supplementation in non-obese non-diabetic subjects is associated with a decline in insulin sensitivity

Umesh Masharani1*, Christine Gjerde1, Shelley McCoy1, Betty A Maddux1, Danielle Hessler2, Ira D Goldfine1 and Jack F Youngren1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Diabetes Center, University of California San Francisco, 400 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94143-1222, USA

2 Department of Family Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

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BMC Endocrine Disorders 2012, 12:31  doi:10.1186/1472-6823-12-31

Published: 30 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The use of chromium supplements is widespread for the prevention and treatment of diabetes mellitus but there are conflicting reports on efficacy, possibly reflecting discrepant effects across different populations. In the present studies, we test the hypothesis that chromium supplementation raises serum chromium levels and correspondingly improves insulin sensitivity.

Methods

A double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial was conducted on 31 non-obese, normoglycemic subjects. After baseline studies, the subjects were randomized to placebo or chromium picolinate 500 μg twice a day. The primary endpoint was change in insulin sensitivity as measured by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp. Pre-specified secondary endpoints included fasting lipids, blood pressure, weight, body composition measured by DXA scan.

Results

After 16 weeks of chromium picolinate therapy there was no significant change in insulin sensitivity between groups (p=0.83). There was, however, a strong association between serum chromium and change in insulin resistance (β = -0.83, p=0.01), where subjects with the highest serum chromium had a worsening of insulin sensitivity. This effect could not be explained by changes in physiological parameters such as body weight, truncal fat and serum lipids with chromium therapy.

Conclusions

Chromium therapy did not improve insulin sensitivity in non-obese normoglycemic individuals. Further, subjects who have high serum chromium levels paradoxically had a decline in insulin sensitivity. Caution therefore should be exercised in recommending the use of this supplement.

Trial registration

The study was registered on the NIH registry (clinicaltrials.gov) and the identifier is NCT00846248