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Can Chromium Supplements improve Insulin Sensitivity and help my PCOS?

Aug 30, 2012 at 3:25pm MST by Dr. Heather DeLuca ND

Chromium is a mineral that can improve insulin activity and can help reduce the insulin resistance so common in Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). 1 Insulin resistance is a core condition in PCOS and greatly contributes to hormonal imbalances that cause many PCOS symptoms.

Chromium supplements are used to treat depression and diabetes, PCOS and prediabetes. 2 Some people use these supplements to reduce cholesterol levels, lose weight or increase athletic performance. 2

Chromium and Diabetes

Insulin resistance is a common PCOS symptom wherein your body cells don't respond to insulin, the hormone that helps your body process sugar from the carbohydrates you ingest. Your body produces more and more insulin and both blood sugar and insulin levels rise in your system. Besides contributing to other hormonal imbalances in your body, insulin resistance is associated with many chronic disorders and conditions, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. Women with PCOS are at much higher risk of developing these conditions.

Research studies have been finding that chromium supplements can help improve insulin activity, insulin resistance and blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. 1,3

Scientist Cesar A. Albarracin and his colleagues divided 447 people, people that struggled to manage their Type 2 diabetes with traditional treatments, into two groups: one that took a combination of chromium and biotin supplements and those that received a placebo. 4 Chromium (a metal) and biotin (a B vitamin) are both integral to carbohydrate metabolism. 4 After 90 days, there was significant improvements in the blood sugar levels of the group that took the combination of supplements. 4

According to WebMD, preliminary studies show that supplements of this mineral can lower blood sugar and insulin levels and combat insulin resistance in people with Type 2 diabetes. 2 Studies also suggest that higher doses of chromium can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, 2 both common PCOS symptoms. These supplements can also help people with Type 2 diabetes lose weight and reduce body fat. 2 These effects can also be true of people with Type 1 diabetes but studies don't support the idea that chromium supplements can help either athletic performance or prediabetes. 2

Because the most compelling evidence for chromium supplements and insulin resistance involved diabetics with a poorly managed condition (meaning that their nutrition was compromised) scientists are looking into the idea that the supplements can have improved diabetic nutrition and therefore reduced symptoms.

Chromium and PCOS Studies

While WebMD states that more evidence is needed for chromium's effectiveness in treating PCOS and PCOS symptoms, 2 early studies are promising.

The biotin/ chromium study can lead to more research in terms of Polycystic ovarian syndrome because B vitamin supplements do seem to increase fertility in women with PCOS, suggesting that they can help rectify hormonal imbalances. 3

A 2006 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that chromium picolinate supplements improved blood sugar levels by 38 percent in women with PCOS. 5

This same figure arose in another study that found giving women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome chromium supplements for two months reduced insulin resistance by 30 percent in lean or normal-weight women with PCOS and 38 percent in overweight or obese women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome. 1

Another study, published in the December 2005 issue of Fertility and Sterility, found that lower doses of chromium picolinate, 200 g/d, given to women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome, improved insulin resistance but did not have much effect on hormonal imbalances or ovulation. 3,6

Supplements can interfere or interact with other medications and conditions. Always consult a registered dietician or doctor before adding any supplement to your PCOS diet.

Citations

1. Dr. Nancy Dunne, "Natural Solutions for PCOS: The Best Supplements," Dr. Nan Dunne.com, Accessed August 5, 2012, http://www.drnandunne.com/?p=1808

2. "Chromium," WebMD, Accessed August 10, 2012, http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-932-CHROMIUM.aspx?activeIngredientId=932&activeIngredientName=CHROMIUM&source=2

3. "Proposed Natural Treatments for PCOS," NYU Langone Medical Center, Accessed August 5, 2012, http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=134668

4. Cesar A. Albarracin et al, "Chromium Picolinate and Biotin Combination Improves Glucose Metabolism in Treated, Uncontrolled Overweight to Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes," Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, January 2008, Accessed August 10, 2012, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dmrr.755/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

5. Michael L. Lydic, MD et al, "Chromium Picolinate Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Subjects with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome," Fertility and Sterility, July 2006, Accessed August 10, 2012, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028206005334

6. R. Scott Lucidi, MD et al, "Effect of Chromium Supplementation on Insulin Resistance and Ovarian and Menstrual Cyclicity in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome," Fertility and Sterility, December 2005, Accessed August 10, 2012, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028205029444

Author

Dr. Heather DeLuca» Dr. Heather DeLuca
I am passionate about Naturopathic Medicine. A healthy life begins with caring for your body and is something everyone deserves.