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Life Extension Magazine February 2011

Take Control of Your Blood Sugar Levels With Targeted Nutrient Compounds

By Alonzo Brody
Take Control of Your Blood Sugar Levels With Targeted Nutrient Compounds

Over fifty years ago scientists conclusively established that low levels of chromium directly contribute to high blood sugar and pre-diabetic complications.1

Yet today, anywhere between 25-50% of the American population suffers from chromium deficiency.2 This is likely the result of modern commercial farming methods that have depleted the soil of valuable chromium and industrial food processing that depletes natural chromium from whole foods. Compounding the danger is the reality that your body’s capacity to absorb chromium declines with age.

These alarming facts highlight a widespread, stealth threat that rampant nutritional insufficiencies may be undermining even the best efforts to optimize blood glucose levels.

As Life Extension® members are well aware, excess glucose not only increases degenerative disease risk, but also adversely impacts longevity genes required for extended life span.

In published studies, chromium deficiency has been shown to induce early-stage diabetic complications and hasten the onset of full-blown diabetes.3-5

The encouraging news is that a targeted set of novel nutritional compounds has been identified that optimizes your body’s ability to keep a tight rein on glucose levels.

In this article, you will learn of a cutting-edge chromium complex that enhances your body’s ability to utilize glucose as you age. You will also discover the proven power of additional nutrients to protect against the system-wide damage inflicted by surplus glucose.

Chromium: The Master Blood Sugar Regulator

Studies on chromium have consistently demonstrated improvement in blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles.6-9 More recent research reveals how it works: chromium favorably modulates your cells’ internal communication centers (intracellular signaling systems) to effectively lower blood glucose.

Every cell in your body uses an internal communications system that must function properly in order to establish and maintain optimal blood glucose absorption and metabolism. Such intracellular signaling is especially critical to cells’ ability to detect and respond to elevated glucose levels in the blood.

When cells detect these elevations, an array of biomolecular processes is set in motion that will determine how well they will manage the increased sugar burden. Chromium is now recognized to be vital to this process, enabling cellular uptake and breakdown of blood sugar—and effectively lowering glucose levels in the blood.10,11

The clinical literature is rich with data supporting chromium’s singular ability to lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.

How Chromium Lowers Blood Sugar Levels: GLUT4

Chromium, like most metals in our bodies, binds to a specific protein “carrier” molecule. Just as the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells binds to iron, the chromodulin molecule binds to chromium ions.21

In the presence of insulin, the chromodulin molecule changes shape and location in the cell, triggering activation of a vital glucose transporter molecule called GLUT4.22,23 GLUT4 is found most abundantly in skeletal muscle and fat tissue, where most glucose metabolism takes place in the body.24,25

Once activated by chromium, GLUT4 shifts its location from deep within the cell’s internal matrix to a position on the cell membrane.22,26 GLUT4 then allows glucose to flow from high concentrations in the blood to lower concentrations in the cell, allowing the cell to safely metabolize sugar while lowering sugar levels in the blood at the same time.

One of the earliest events in the onset of type 2 diabetes is now known to be inhibition of glucose transport by the GLUT4 complex—so scientists are keenly interested in novel approaches to reactivating GLUT4’s ability to transport glucose effectively.27-29

Chromium directly increases production of GLUT4 transporter molecules themselves, adding a second important mechanism of action that is independent of insulin (a vital effect in insulin-resistant tissue). Chromium regulates the genes for several intracellular signaling molecules, including GLUT4.22,30,31 That effect increases the amount of GLUT4 available for moving glucose out of circulation. Exciting recent studies reveal that chromium also activates an entirely different signaling system called p38 MAPK that contributes to increased glucose uptake independent of the GLUT4 system.32

In a 2009 study, diabetic patients given chromium experienced reductions in their total insulin requirements, along with reductions in fasting and afternoon glucose levels.12 Recent studies show that supplementation with chromium and biotin can improve glycemic control in overweight to obese diabetic patients when taken along with their regular medication.13

Chromium also exerts its positive effects on blood sugar selectively—which means it does not induce dangerously low blood sugar levels like some drugs, but rather kicks into gear only when blood sugar levels become too high.14,15

Scientists recognize that control of blood sugar in the immediate period following a meal (the postprandial period) is perhaps more important than at any other time. This is the interval when blood sugar can dangerously spike in the body, inflicting low-level, cumulative damage to multiple physiological systems over time. Chromium has been shown to dramatically reduce total exposure to glucose during the postprandial period in most subjects.16

Chromium’s multitargeted actions not only keep sugar levels low, they also prevent the formation of advanced glycation end products, or AGEs.5,12,17,18 Most notably, chromium helps bring down levels of hemoglobin A1c, the advanced glycation end product associated with long-term exposure to elevated sugar concentrations.18

These benefits are accompanied by healthy reductions in abnormal lipid levels and increases in artery-cleansing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood.9 The combination of chromium and biotin has also been shown to favorably affect a biomarker called the atherogenic index: the ratio of triglycerides to HDL that is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.19

The improvement in insulin signaling by chromium is also associated with decreased production of specific pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cell-signaling molecules play a mutually reinforcing role in prolonging and worsening impaired glucose control.11,20

Potent Organic Blood Sugar Stabilizers: Amla and Shilajit

Chromium is a highly reactive metal ion, requiring balance through additional organic materials in order to stabilize and enhance its effects. Two traditional remedies for obesity and its consequences have more recently been shown to synergistically enhance chromium’s beneficial action.

The herb amla (Indian gooseberry) directly impacts a host of biochemical and gene-regulating processes that positively influence factors related to high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome. Traditional preparations containing amla have long been known to lower blood sugar in diabetic animals and humans, but until recently the mechanisms were unclear.33,34

We now know that amla extracts are powerful antioxidants.35,36 They inhibit digestive enzymes that would otherwise convert starch to sugar, helping to reduce blood sugar loads following a meal.35 In pre-clinical models, an herbal combination containing amla reduces lipid peroxidation, the free radical damage to cell membranes that plays a critical role in atherosclerosis and the development of insulin resistance.37

Amla extract also shields tissues from damage inflicted by excess glucose at multiple levels and it prevents production of sugar alcohols that wreak havoc on the vulnerable ocular (eye) structures and other tissues in diabetics.38,39 Amla extracts are showing additional promise in preventing the metabolic syndrome in animal models.40

What You Need to Know: Nutritionally Targeted Glucose Control
  • Indian Goosebery
    Indian Goosebery
    Up to 50% of the American population is deficient in chromium, one of the principal nutrients the body needs to control blood sugar levels.
  • A novel chromium complex has been identified that optimizes your body’s ability to break down and convert blood sugar into energy at the cellular level.
  • The organic compounds amla (Indian gooseberry) and shilajit work synergistically to enhance chromium’s glucose-lowering effects.
  • Amla shields cells from damage inflicted by high blood sugar, while shilajit boosts efficient cellular metabolism of glucose.
  • Cinnamon polyphenols activate cells’ glucose detection systems, enabling them to act more quickly to counter high blood sugar.
  • Cinnamon also induces the feeling of being full (satiety) to prevent overconsumption and the after-meal spikes in blood sugar and insulin that result.
  • Extracts of brown seaweed help prevent glucose elevations by blocking digestive enzymes and limiting glucose absorption from the intestine.

Additional balance is provided by shilajit, a complex mixture of organic and inorganic compounds rich in fulvic acid. Studies have shown that shilajit has remarkable effects on the ways in which our mitochondria utilize energy from sugar and fats.41

Fulvic acid acts as a molecular “chaperone,” shuttling electrons efficiently along their pathways within mitochondria.42-44 This enhances the efficiency of mitochondrial respiration and speeds blood sugar metabolism.45

The compound of chromium plus amla and shilajit thus acts to optimize the way your body takes up and distributes glucose between and within cells, assuring rapid removal of glucose from the bloodstream and efficient utilization of glucose within cells.

Blocking Carbohydrate Breakdown with Seaweed Extracts

Blocking Carbohydrate Breakdown with Seaweed Extracts

A complementary strategy in the battle against elevated glucose is to limit the amount of glucose the body has to process. Many doctors counsel their patients to reduce their total carbohydrate intake, but this strategy provides only partial protection for most people. Another approach is to blunt the conversion of starches into their component sugars in the gastrointestinal tract. This can be accomplished safely and effectively by introducing natural enzyme inhibitors that halt carbohydrate metabolism in the gut. The most attractive targets are the sugar-producing alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes.

Extracts from a variety of seaweeds have inhibitory effects on these enzymes.46-49 Animal studies have revealed that inhibiting these enzymes lowers blood sugar levels.50,51 Not only are the polyphenols found in these seaweeds powerful tools in reducing elevated glucose, they are also potent antioxidants.52,53

These seaweed extracts stimulate differentiation of fat cells, preventing them from replicating and reducing the release of harmful fat-related cytokines.54,55 They achieve this effect in part through their upregulation of the important PPAR metabolic sensing system and also through increased expression of the GLUT4 glucose transporter.54,55

Cinnamon: A Clinically Documented Glucose Fighter

Cinnamon’s traditional uses have been related to obesity and to the conditions we now recognize as diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. The polyphenols in water-soluble cinnamon extracts act on multiple targets to enhance insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar, and limit damage by advanced glycation end products.56,57 Collectively, these effects contribute to reduction in the risks for the metabolic syndrome.58

Cinnamon polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that exert direct protective effects on cells and tissues.59 In recent years, we’ve learned that cinnamon also potently increases the number and activity of glucose transport complexes that enable cells to take up glucose in the presence of insulin.60,61

Cinnamon also upregulates production of the metabolic sensors known as PPARs, which are being investigated by pharmaceutical companies as sources for anti-diabetic drug development.62 PPARs represent another mechanism by which cells recognize increased glucose concentrations and act to lower them. Increased PPAR activity contributes to improved insulin sensitivity.

In human studies, cinnamon supplementation lowers blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity.63 It blunts the spike in glucose levels following ingestion of a sugar-rich meal, and at the same time lowers insulin spikes.64,65

Cinnamon also helps to increase satiety, the feeling of being full that prevents us from eating more than we should.66

Cinnamon has also been shown to lower blood pressure, enhancing its anti-metabolic syndrome effects.67 The combination of reduced blood sugar, reduced blood pressure, and improved body composition promises tremendous health benefits in adults with early metabolic syndrome but without signs of diabetes.68

Cinnamon: A Clinically Documented Glucose Fighter

These effects powerfully lower the body’s total exposure to excess glucose. But cinnamon also acts to prevent glucose-induced tissue damage, reducing protein glycation and preventing the cumulative effects of AGEs.69 Cinnamon supplements have shown promise, for example, in reducing diabetic neuropathy, the painful and debilitating nerve injury that results from glycation of neural proteins.70 And cinnamon’s polyphenols have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antitumor, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects that contribute to our overall disease risk reduction.71 Specifically, cinnamon extracts have been shown to reduce levels of the fat tissue-derived inflammatory cytokines that increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.72


Up to 50% of the American population is deficient in chromium, one of the principal nutrients the body needs to control blood sugar levels. A novel chromium complex has been identified that optimizes your body’s ability to break down and convert blood sugar into energy at the cellular level.

The organic compounds amla (Indian gooseberry) and shilajit work synergistically to enhance chromium’s glucose-lowering effects. Amla shields cells from damage inflicted by high blood sugar, while shilajit boosts efficient cellular metabolism of glucose.

In human studies, cinnamon supplementation lowers blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity.

Cinnamon polyphenols activate cells’ glucose detection systems, enabling them to act more quickly to counter high blood sugar. Cinnamon also induces the feeling of being full (satiety) to prevent overconsumption and the after-meal spikes in blood sugar and insulin that result. Extracts of brown seaweed help prevent glucose elevations by blocking digestive enzymes and limiting glucose absorption from the intestine.

Taken together, these nutrients provide aging individuals with potent natural mechanisms to suppress fasting blood glucose levels to optimal ranges (below 86 mg/dL) while blunting dangerous after-meal glucose spikes.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at


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72. Qin B, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Cinnamon extract regulates plasma levels of adipose-derived factors and expression of multiple genes related to carbohydrate metabolism and lipogenesis in adipose tissue of fructose-fed rats. Horm Metab Res. 2010 Mar;42(3):187-93.