Trace elements, such as zinc, chromium, and manganese, are critical to many processes within the human body. They can act as cofactors for enzymatic reactions, assist in cell signaling, help stabilize cellular structures, and more. Trace elements also play an important role in healthy glucose metabolism. They help transport glucose across cell membranes and help modulate insulin sensitivity.
Although the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is complex and multifactorial, changes in the nutritional status of trace elements have been associated with aspects of T2DM. Recent research has explored the potential role of trace elements in the presence of T2DM.
Chromium is a trace element that has been shown in research to support many aspects of glucose metabolism. Biochemically, chromium helps support the quantity and function of insulin receptors and helps improve insulin binding. It also helps promote beta-cell sensitivity.
In a meta-analysis, chromium was shown to have positive effects on glucose control in patients with diabetes with no increased risk of adverse events as compared to a placebo. In combination with picolinate, chromium was shown to reduce fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1C, and triglycerides, and to increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
Supplementation with zinc has been shown to support health in individuals with T2DM. Significant reductions in fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels have been observed in clinical trials. In addition, zinc deficiency can be common in those with T2DM.
An increase in oxidative stress is associated with T2DM. Selenium is an element that has been shown to support the body’s response to oxidative stress. One clinical study involving more than 7,000 individuals for two decades found that participants with the highest levels of selenium had a 24% lower risk of developing T2DM.
Magnesium is also an important mineral in this population. Intracellular magnesium is a modulator of insulin action. Magnesium may play a protective role in the risk of diabetes; in more than 40 cohort studies involving more than 1 million participants, with follow-ups ranging from 4 to 30 years, dietary magnesium intake was associated with a reduction in relative risk of T2DM by almost 20%. Supplementation with magnesium has been shown to promote insulin sensitivity and metabolic control. Clinical studies involving magnesium supplementation have observed favorable effects on several biomarkers related to T2DM.
Certain minerals may support glucose metabolism and other aspects of health in individuals with T2DM. Diet, lifestyle, and supplementation may also support metabolic health.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT