An interesting finding came about when searching for information on prednisone-induced diabetes. In Diabetes Med., Feb 1999, Vol. 16(2) Pgs. 164-7, the authors A. Ravina, et al, studied how high-dose prednisone depletes chromium from the body thereby resulting in chromium deficiency. This deficiency led to steroid-induced diabetes which was reversed, to a large degree, by chromium supplementation after just several days. This actually makes sense since there are data that shows chromium deficiency leads to insulin-resistance and results in high blood glucose levels. I remember back almost 30years when we added chromium to hyperalimentation IV fluids when patients had high blood glucose levels and their blood glucose levels then dropped to near normal levels. When taking in only IV fluids it is likely, if that’s your only nutrition, that you can become deficient in some essential trace elements like chromium.
In this small study they measured chromium urinary output and blood glucose (fasting) 2 days prior to steroid treatment and for 3 days after. Urinary chromium losses increased from 155+/-28ng/day before treatment to 244+/-33ng/day following treatment. After supplementing with 600mcg of chromium daily (200mcg three times daily), fasting blood glucose levels dropped from about 250mg% to 150mg% and doses of hypoglycemic drugs were reduced, on average, by 50% in all patients given chromium. Wow! What a find!
However, there are two concerns with chromium: 1) There are case reports of kidney damage in those who took large doses over a long period of time to induce weight loss. This would be unlikely in many scenarios but is important to note. 2) Chromium can be toxic even in low doses due to chromium being, in some supplements, in its toxic form hexavalent chromium. What that means is that chromium is safe in the trivalent form, chromium +3, whereas it is toxic when ingested in the hexavalent form, chromium +6. The problem is you may not know if the supplement you want to take is contaminated with the hexavalent form. However, ConsumerLab.com, an independent testing agency that has tested more than 2400 supplements has tested chromium supplements and references a few that are safe, yet a few that may have hexavalent chromium in them. You can check out the site, via a $29.95 annual subscription, at www.consumerlab.com or you can contact us for more information.
In summary, chromium is a trace element that is needed for the body to properly process carbohydrates and when deficient can lead to high blood sugar. Supplementation of a safe amount and in uncontaminated form may be appropriate.