Chromium is an essential mineral because it helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels through proper insulin utilization. It can be helpful both for people with diabetes and also those with hypoglycemia.
Chromium is also known as glucose tolerance factor, meaning that it improves the activity of insulin and facilitates the uptake of glucose into the cells. It is vital in the synthesis of cholesterol, fats, and proteins.
Chromium facilitates weight loss. Although it is not a miracle cure for obesity, chromium does increase lean muscle mass and decrease body fat.
The average American diet is chromium deficient. The main reasons for this are: the particular form of chromium in many foods is not easily absorbed; not enough foods with chromium are consumed; sugar leaches chromium from the body; and most of the chromium in foods is lost during processing.
Chromium levels decline with age, which may be one of the reasons for the increased incidence of adult onset diabetes. The average American gets less than 50 micrograms of chromium per day. The general recommendation on supplementing chromium is 200 mcg. per day. If diabetic, the recommendation is double that, or 400 mcg. per day.
Food sources of chromium include beer, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, meat and whole grains. Supplemental forms are chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate. Either form is absorbed well.
Recent press coverage has linked chromium picolinate to cancer. These reports were based on research using hamster cells. The cells were exposed to 3000 times the recommended human dosage and resulted in chromosomal damage in hamster cells. The reasonableness of this study is questionable as the excessive quantities of chromium would necessarily cause imbalance in both humans and hamster cells.
Since the release of this particular study, numerous animal and human studies have been conducted. Safety studies by the USDA and other reputable research facilities have found no toxicity or adverse effects with high doses of chromium. I recommend staying within a normal range of 100 to 500 mcg. per day.
Chromium is an important supplement because blood sugar problems are rampant in America today. Twenty-five to thirty percent of all Americans are insulin resistant – this equates to 60 to 75 million people. Only five to 10 percent of these will develop type 2 diabetes.
Impaired blood sugar metabolism is associated with much more than type 2 diabetes. It is a fundamental factor in serious medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and increased risk of heart disease. In fact, insulin resistance is as accurate a predictor of heart disease as are elevated levels of cholesterol.
Research indicates that chromium supplementation helps not only with blood sugar, or insulin resistance, but with cholesterol as well. Chromium also helps reduce plaque build up in arteriosclerosis.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.