A Question of Chromes: Supplement Choices for Diabetics

As it is for so many of the systems, processes, and statuses inside our bodies, most of us give no thought at all to our blood sugar levels until they dip too low or surge too high. When they go high and don’t come back into balance, you begin to run the risk of developing diabetes. If you have the need to urinate frequently, have seemingly insatiable thirst, and your hunger is equally irresolvable then you may be diabetic.

Long story short, you’re either experiencing a pancreas that is now failing to produce enough insulin (Type 1), or the cells of your body have become too unresponsive to insulin (Type 2). Now to be clear, diabetes rarely progresses to the point where it puts your life at risk, but it’s quite a burden for sufferers and is usually a lifelong ailment once you’ve developed it. Eating a healthier diet (and avoid refined sugar nearly entirely if not completely as a primary part of that), getting more vigorous exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding substance abuse are primary keys to keeping your diabetes in check.


From there, the majority of diabetics takes specific blood sugar leveling medication. These days, however, there is a growing minority of people who’d prefer to address their health issues while avoiding pharmacological options and there’s a whole lot of merit in doing so. One of the more prominent natural supplement alternatives is the use of Chromium to maintain blood sugar levels in the treatment of diabetes.

It is of some importance, though, for diabetics considering a natural supplementation course to understand that there are in fact 2 different types of Chromium, and one or the other may be a better fit for you based on different individual physiology points that aren’t necessarily related to the diabetes at all. So let’s get into what makes chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate different and why one or the other might be more extensively beneficial for you.

Chromium Picolinate

Chromium Picolinate contains picolinic acid. It’s especially effective for increasing insulin sensitivity, often making it the better choice for folks whose diabetes is caused more by the 2nd Diabetes type highlighted above; Type 2 where the body is increasingly unresponsive to insulin.

It also lowers cholesterol and as such it’s a good choice for diabetics who also have high blood pressure or are known to be more at risk for coronary issues.

Picolinic acid is also the body’s prime natural chelator of the vital trace elements chromium, zinc, manganese, copper, iron, and molybendum, and it promotes the absorption of trace elements much more effectively. This fact makes it a good choice for diabetics who have leaky gut (intestinal permeability) or other intestinal lining issues that prevent them from absorbing all of the nutrients they intake via food.

Chromium picolinate is also helpful for reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle, which would add to its appeal for diabetics who are also especially committed to maintaining a healthy body weight and / or getting into the best shape they can be.

In summary, a chromium picolinate form of chromium is a better choice for people with Type II diabetes, but be aware of the following potential negative side effects:

  • Excessive diarrhea
  • Blood in urine and feces
  • In rare instances, coughing up blood

The standard dose for Chromium Picolinate is 200mcg, and be aware that it requires sufficient levels of the amino acid tryptophan for sufficient biosynthesis.


Chromium Polynicotinate

Chromium polynicotinate contains niacin acid, and it’s considered to be the most effective because it is the most absorbable and safest form of chromium. Like the picolinate form, it helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the body. More specifically, it facilitates insulin action and as such the consensus is that it’s the better choice for Type 1 diabetes as well as being the more effective choice overall. By facilitating insulin action it makes up for the deficiency of actual insulin produced by the incapacitated pancreas.

The fact that polynicotinate also stimulates carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism makes this form of chromium an equally good choice for diabetics with personal fitness or weight loss aims. Experts will be quick to point out that it has also been shown to help with obesity and – interestingly – being predisposed to post-meal fatigue, which of course promotes further inactivity!

In summary, a chromium polynicotinate form of chromium is a better choice for people with Type I diabetes, but be aware of the following potential negative side effects, and do take note by their nature that they make the polynicotinate form unsuitable for anyone with depression or mood disorders:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability, and mood changes
  • In severe cases, anemia and liver dysfunction

The standard dose of chromium polynicotinate is also 200mcg

To conclude here today, we’ll mention that dealing with your diabetes shouldn’t only involve consultation with your family physician. Depending on your needs and the resources available in your community, you may also benefit from consultation with a diabetes educator (nurse and/or dietitian), endocrinologist, pharmacist, social worker, exercise physiologist, psychologist, and even foot and eye care specialists (due to the potential development of diabetic peripheral neuropathy).

Make the most of every resource you can, and be as proactive in possible in digging to come to know the full nature of your diabetic condition. Then make the lifestyle changes you need – including diet and strategic supplementation – and you’ll be well on your way towards living with managed diabetes.