Life Extension Update
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Low chromium levels associated with diabetes and heart disease in men
Chromium is a trace mineral that can improve insulin sensitivity. Although only 50 to 200 micrograms per day is considered adequate, the majority of individuals consuming western diets fail to obtain this amount.
The study involved participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which enrolled 51,529 men in 1986 to investigate the role of diet in disease. For the current analysis, Harvard researchers compared 688 participants with diabetes and 198 subjects who had diabetes and cardiovascular disease to 361 healthy participants. Toenail clippings were analyzed for chromium levels in 1987, and questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and every two years thereafter provided information on the men’s diets and medical histories.
When men whose chromium levels were in the highest one-fourth of all participants were compared with those whose levels were in the lowest one-fourth, their risk of diabetes was found to be 26 percent lower. Having a high level of chromium more than halved the risk of having diabetes accompanied by cardiovascular disease experienced by those whose chromium levels were in the lowest one-fourth.
A second analysis compared 202 diabetic men who developed cardiovascular disease over the course of the study with 361 healthy age and smoking status matched controls, and also found an inverse association between chromium levels and disease risk.
The authors state that these results suggest that men with diabetes and cardiovascular disease have lower levels of chromium than healthy men. They recommend long-term clinical trials to determine whether supplementation with chromium will help prevent cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes.
The literature teems with similar reports regarding chromium's ability to modulate errant blood glucose levels. In fact, chromium is so important it is considered essential nearly every time you eat. Unfortunately, about 90% of adults are chromium deficient, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (The highest tissue levels of chromium are found in newborns, with the tissue levels dwindling over a lifetime.) The conundrum surrounding chromium is that as chromium becomes deficient, more insulin is required, and as insulin production becomes excessive, a chromium deficiency occurs. In addition, chromium levels are seriously depleted when eating a diet high in refined sugar and white flour products.
It was known by the 1950s that chromium was required by animals to control blood sugar, but it was not until the 1970s that chromium's essential role in humans was clearly proven. The following chance finding established chromium's validity in reducing diabetic symptoms: patients receiving Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), a specially prepared feeding solution delivered through the patient's veins, developed high blood sugar in the absence of diabetes. Insulin therapy was begun but without satisfying results. It was determined that the TPN was deficient in amounts of chromium adequate to stave off diabetes-like symptoms. When 50 mcg of chromium were added to their IV feedings, the patients no longer required insulin and their blood glucose levels returned to normal (Mennen 1996).
Several mechanisms render chromium valuable in blood glucose management:
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism, glucose regulation, and energy production. Chromium can also produce anabolic effects, but without side effects.
Chromium polynicotinate is a niacin-bound, absorbable form that may be used as part of your diet to help maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant used in Europe to promote liver and nerve health, and confer protective benefits against oxidative processes. Alpha lipoic acid has been called the “universal” antioxidant because it boosts glutathione levels in cells and has potent antioxidant actions in of itself.
Research in the past decade has strongly implicated cellular oxidative damage caused by free radicals as a cause of many degenerative disorders. What makes alpha lipoic acid so effective as an antioxidant is that it works on both water and fat-soluble free radicals, which are the cause of damaging oxidative processes. Alpha lipoic acid also plays a critical role in energy production within the cells’ mitochondria.
Besides boosting glutathione levels in cells, alpha lipoic acid has potent antioxidant action in almost all the tissues of the body, and is a co-factor for some of the key enzymes (alpha keto acid dehydrogenases) involved in generating energy from food and oxygen in mitochondria.
|Life Extension Magazine November 2004 Preview |
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