Chromium is a mineral trace element and is essential to nutrition and physiologic processes. It is involved in the metabolism of glucose (sugar), which is necessary for energy. Sometimes chromium is referred to as the glucose tolerant factor or GTF. This mineral may help maintain stable blood sugar levels by properly utilizing insulin. Insulin production enables the body to metabolize carbohydrates.
Most people do not get an adequate amount of chromium from their diet. Fatigue, glucose intolerance, and feelings of anxiety are some symptoms that may indicate chromium deficiency. As a result, some people may become hyperglycemic (higher than normal blood sugar, but not diabetes), diabetic (high blood sugar), and/or hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). Physical injury, strenuous exercise, infection, or ingesting excessive amounts of sugar-laden foods may cause chromium levels to decline.
Low chromium levels may place some people at greater risk of heart disease. Chromium supplements have been shown to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. When combined with biotin, chromium picolinate may reduce insulin resistance and bad cholesterol (LDL) in patients with type 2 diabetes.
There is also evidence that chromium may reduce fat, increase muscle tissue, and decrease the amount of calcium excreted in the urine of women; good news for women who have osteoporosis.
Chromium supplements may help pregnant women maintain healthy blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Pregnant women may need additional chromium because the developing fetus increases demand for the mineral.
Sources of Chromium
Food sources include brewer's yeast, cheese, whole grains, beer, molasses, fish and lean meat. Hard water that is not 'softened' provides up to 70% of the daily requirement of chromium.
Chromium picolinate (or chromium polynicotinate) is the preferred type to take. Picolinate is a natural amino acid metabolite that provides a gateway for chromium to enter cells, and may help the efficiency of insulin. Other available forms include chromium-enriched yeast, chromium chloride, and multivitamin preparations.
An average daily dose that may help prevent disease ranges between 100-mcg and 200-mcg per day. However, if taking other medications or supplements, first check with your healthcare provider.
Guidelines and Cautions
Chromium from food sources is usually nontoxic. However, excessive chromium consumption can cause dermatitis, gastrointestinal ulcers, and kidney/liver dysfunction. High amounts of chromium can affect the effectiveness of insulin.
- If you have insulin-dependent diabetes, do not use chromium unless your medical professional prescribes it.
- Chromium can affect a person’s insulin requirements, and people with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar very carefully if they take chromium.
Some people become light-headed or develop a slight skin rash when they take chromium.
Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.