Nutritional supplements for diabetes prevention: hype or hope?

Predictive, preventive and personalized medicine (PPPM) is positioned as one of the key components to the future of patient care. As outlined in an editorial The EPMA Journal, which recently moved from Springer to BioMed Central, aims to promote this paradigm change “from delayed interventional ‘disease care’ to PPPM as the medicine of the future” by disseminating reviews that cover at least two of the three aspects of PPPM.
One such recently published review article discusses the commonly-held belief that the nutritional supplement chromium picolinate (CrPic) is of benefit in the treatment of type 2 diabetic, obese and diabetes predisposed individuals. But as one of the authors and Editor-in-Chief, Olga Golubnitschaja, explains: “Changing long-held beliefs is never easy.” This article is based on their work funded by the National Institutes of Health, which the authors have performed in collaboration with Mahmood Mozaffari of Georgia Health Sciences University in the USA. The project attempts to answer the scientific question “Is chromium picolinate renoprotective in diabetes?”
Chromium picolate supplements are widely available and come in many forms such as chewing gums, pills, sports drinks and nutrition bars. These supplements are marketed as a means of reducing fat mass and increasing lean body mass to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, there is an increasing body of anecdotal evidence in case reports and independent studies that highly individualized reactions have occurred after taking high dosage of CrPic as a dietary supplement including acute kidney failure, liver damage and anaemia. In their article the authors warn that this highlights the risk of highly individual reactions “when the dietary supplements are used freely as therapeutic agents, without application of advanced diagnostic tools to predict individual outcomes. “
The authors conclude that the high efficacy of a balanced diet, an individually optimised lifestyle and personalised treatment regimens can hardly be substituted by a limited number of single supplements to cover all the multifactorial risks for type 2 diabetes.

Shane Canning, Journal Development Editor, BioMed Central

Martijn Roelandse, Publishing Editor, Springer

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