Hair Mineral Test - Research

Trace Elements and Diabetes

The incidence of diabetes worldwide is expected to double in the next 10 years affecting over 200 million people. It is known that dietary modifications can help considerably in improving blood-glucose control and therefore reduce many complications caused by this condition. Morradian and Morely published an excellent review article discussing the serum micronutrient status in patients diagnosed with diabetes. Their paper stated that "the relationship between nutrition and diabetes was suspected as early as 1674 and that "over the last 20 years, numerous studies have found alterations in micronutrient status of patients with diabetes mellitus. In some studies deficiency of certain minerals or vitamins has been correlated with presence of diabetic complications". This study has reported that serum levels of chromium and zinc are usually found low in diabetic patients.

Chromium and Diabetes

Chromium has been recognised to be an essential for human since the 1960s. Chromium is a well-known component of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which involves in normal carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It acts primarily by regulating insulin action; in the presence of chromium in a physiological form, much lower amounts of insulin are required, since chromium acts by increasing insulin efficiency.

Like glucose, insulin also contributes to chromium deficiency. Insulin injections are known to increase chromium excretion. Many patients with adult onset diabetes (AOD) or type II diabetes mellitus have excessive insulin production, chromium deficiency would be expected in this group, and chromium supplementation in diabetics has been shown to improve glucose tolerance. Since both insulin and glucose increase the excretion of chromium, it is important to consider the effects of food consumption on serum insulin and glucose levels.

Stephen Davies et al., reported a significant age-related decrease in chromium levels in 51,665 hair, sweat, and serum samples obtained from 40,872 patients. Males were found to have significantly lower mean chromium levels than females. There was a highly significant correlation between chromium levels in hair and sweat, hair and serum, and sweat and serum for both males and females. The results indicated that sweat and hair chromium levels are valid additions to the serum chromium level in the assessment of chromium status in humans.

The role that refined carbohydrates play in the development of compromised chromium status was presented in this study. The lower mean chromium levels in males in the 30- to 59-year age groups occur at the time of life when there are maximal differences in the male/female prevalence of diabetic morbidity and mortality. In one UK dietary survey, it was found that men had a higher refined-carbohydrate intake than women in these age groups, which account for the lower chromium levels in male observed in this study. It may also be that female hormones may contribute to the observed higher chromium levels in these tissues.

Throughout evolution dietary carbohydrate has not been refined and this has probably contained sufficient chromium for dietary carbohydrate to be metabolised. Only recently have refined carbohydrates been extensively consumed. Refining removes greater than 90% of the naturally occurring chromium, thereby producing a relative chromium deficiency, with insufficient chromium available for optimal carbohydrate metabolism.

Research work at Trace Element Inc., conducted by Dr. David Watts has reported that tissue mineral analysis (TMA) of chromium levels in AOD patients are usually found below the ideal in both Para-sympathetic and Sympathetic Types. Losses of chromium can be caused by elevated glucose that is common in Sympathetic Types. Hyperinsulinism frequently associated with Parasympathetic types also causes a loss of chromium.

"Hair chromium levels are valid additions to the serum chromium level in the assessment of chromium status in humans."

Other Trace Elements and Diabetes Other trace elements such as zinc are known to be required for insulin storage. Zinc depletion has been found to occur in some forms of diabetes, most notably juvenile type or type I diabetes mellitus. Increased losses of zinc in the urine are also known to occur and a diabetic who has symptoms of zinc deficiency (such as eczema, acne, recurrent infections including thrush, or poor growth in child) should have tests of zinc status done to see if there is a need for zinc supplements. Individuals with AOD also show a need for zinc, which is due to an increased requirement as a result of anabolic demands. Antagonistic effects of zinc on insulin may occur in diabetic patients with low TMA Na/K and Ca/K ratios. Zinc increases glucocorticoid activity, which raises potassium relative to sodium.


Stabilization of blood glucose is important for many reasons. Patients with diabetes are susceptible to complications such as neuropathies, cardiomyopathy, vascular disease, poor wound healing and blindness. Even patients suffering with simple hypoglycemia would benefit from glucose control. Many common health conditions other than diabetes have an underlying disturbance in glucose control. Weight control for example is closely associated with glucose and insulin, as well as emotional problems such as; aberrant behavior, poor concentration and mental acuity. The emotional connection to poor glucose control is very strong and should not be overlooked, since the brain requires a constant supply of fuel (glucose).

Due to the adverse effects of elevated glucose or hypoglycemia, it is important to maintain glucose control in diabetic and non-diabetic patients alike. This involves control of insulin levels as well since glucose does not always correlate with insulin levels. A person can have a normal blood-glucose level and yet have an underlying hyperinsulin condition. TMA can help considerably in recognizing specific nutritional imbalances that may be present in patients with abnormal glucose and insulin levels as well as serve as an aid, in conjunction with other clinical tests, in recognizing the potential development of a glucose disorder.

Foods that Contain Chromium:

  • Soybeans
  • Egg yolks
  • Oysters
  • Lamb
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Mushrooms

Foods that Contain Zinc:

  • Bran
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Whole Grains
  • Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Potato skins

1. Watts D.L.: Trace Elements and Glucose Disorders. TEI Newsletter 11:2, 1999 
2. Watts D.L.: The Nutritional Relationships of Chromium. J Ortho Med 4:1, 1989 
3. Davis S., Howard J.M., Hunnisett A., Howard M.: Age-Related Decreases in Chromium Levels in 51,665 Hair, Sweat, and Serum Samples from 40,872 Patients - Implication for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Type II Diabetes Mellitus. Metabolism 46:5, 1997 
4. Mooradian, Morely.: The Serum Micronutrient Status in Patient Diagnosed with Diabetes. Am J of Clin 45, 1987. 
5. Anderson R.A., Cheng N., Bryden N.A., Polansky M.M., Cheng N., Chi J., Feng J.: Elevated Intakes of Supplemental Chromium Improve Glucose and Insulin Variables in Individuals with Type II Diabetes. Diabetes 46:1786-1791, 1997