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A friend recently told me that taking Chromium may help decrease the amounts of insulin needed. Any comment?

The standard recommendations to help control blood sugar include:

  • meal planning (eat a wide variety of nutritious foods),
  • exercise (do at least a moderate amount every day),
  • stress control (keep extra stress to controllable amounts whenever possible),
  • and insulin (whether by shots, for Type 1 and occasionally in Type 2 diabetes, or by using pills to help your own insulin in some cases of Type II diabetes).

There have been small research studies showing that some supplements do some good for some people with diabetes. Certainly, if you listen to the pitchmen who used to sell snake oil, and who now sell health supplements, you'll benefit greatly by using their pills or tonics or nutrients or whatever they're selling. They love to quote obscure scientific studies (and sometimes they even pay unethical researchers to do their studies for them!).

The problem is that anytime you take anything that you wish will help you, it will help you. This is called the placebo effect. So, if you are sold on the idea of using a supplement, and think something good has happened as a result of using it, you'll:

  • continue to buy the product, and
  • tell all your friends about the wonderful product.

And another problem in the United States: the regulatory authorities (such as the FDA) have little control over whatever grandiose claims are made, or what is actually in the container, as long as no claims are made that it will actually function as a medicine. Read the double-talk on the labels of some of these products, and see how they imply that they somehow help your health, but they carefully avoid making any medical claims that they help your diabetes!

To be blunt, taking chromium or other nutritional supplements to help control diabetes might be okay if you want to spend money, but it may be just wishful thinking.

There's another question about the use of chromium in diabetes that was posted on June 20, 1996.

Original posting 23 Dec 95


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