Daily supplementation with 1,000 mcg of chromium could present a new nutritional therapy option for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), according to results of a new pilot study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Approximately 2 million American women suffer from PCOS - a hormonal condition that is a leading cause of infertility, and is associated with insulin resistance, gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
In an effort to build on limited PCOS treatment options, researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook, analyzed the effects of nutritional supplementation with chromium - a mineral that is needed for insulin activity in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism - in the form of Nutrition 21's Chromax chromium picolinate on six women with PCOS.
Results showed that glucose disposal rate (insulin sensitivity) was significantly increased by an average of 35 per cent after two months of treatment, and baseline insulin levels decreased by 22 per cent.
The study was presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Conference (ASRM) in San Antonio, Texas and appears in a supplement to the September 2003 issue of Fertility and Sterility.
"Chromium picolinate, which has positive effects on insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes, looks like it has great potential as a safe, effective long-term therapy to fill a void in treating PCOS," said Michael L. Lydic, assistant professor at SUNY Reproductive Endocrinology Division, who led the study.
"If larger, controlled trials confirm chromium picolinate's efficacy, PCOS patients could potentially take the supplement every day to decrease their risk of diabetes and possibly improve other physical and symptomatic effects of PCOS," said Lydic, adding that "it also has potential to be used in combination with prescription insulin-sensitizing drugs".
There is currently no FDA-approved drug specifically to treat PCOS. Some doctors prescribe insulin-sensitizing agents, such as metformin, but doctors have reported that many women experience unwanted side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
Lydic continued: "Our goal is to explore potential long-term therapies to bring insulin resistance under control and decrease risk of diabetes. Ideally, we hope to compare chromium picolinate with metformin in a clinical setting."
The study was a non-randomized, prospective study, which included six women of reproductive age (18 to 42 years old) with PCOS and signs of insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemic, euglycemic clamp tests, the most accurate measure of insulin sensitivity, were used on all subjects.
Researchers measured hormonal, physical and symptomatic effects of improved insulin function. They reported that one subject without menstrual cycles, who had the largest change in glucose disposal rate, had a spontaneous menstrual period after 2 months. No adverse side effects were reported among the study participants.
Previous clinical trials have provided evidence that chromium as chromium picolinate reduces insulin resistance, improves blood sugar control and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.