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Diabetes prevention and management: the role of trace minerals

Interest in the role of trace minerals in diabetes started way back in 1929, when Glaser and Halpern noticed that yeast extract potentiates the action of insulin.1 The discovery in 1959 of glucose tolerance factor in yeast and the isolation of chromium as its active component intensified interest in the status of other trace minerals in diabetes.2Trace minerals influence glucose metabolism through various means, e.g. serving as co-factors, activation of insulin receptor sites, and increasing insulin sensitivity.3–5Diabetes alters the homeostasis of trace minerals.6–8 Some of these minerals, e.g. chromium, zinc, and magnesium,are excreted at higher than normal rates in the urine of diabetic patients. The polyuria of diabetes resulting from hyperosmotic glomerular filtrate is largely responsible for enhanced urinary mineral loss.9, 10The relationship between diabetes and trace minerals is complex with no clear cause and effect relationship.Which comes first? The effects of hyperglycaemia on minerals metabolism, or the effects that follow alterations in trace mineral homeostasis on carbohydrate metabolism.Controversy remains regarding supplemental minerals as adjuncts in the treatment of patients with diabetes.11–13Solving this problem could include increasing dietary intake of local specific food rich in these minerals or utilising supplemental sources of the mineral for those at risk of being deficient.