Chromium is an essential trace element for humans. In order for the body to use chromium, it must be converted to an active form. Glucose tolerance factor (GTF) is an active form of chromium that has been isolated from brewer's yeast. GTF chromium helps insulin pull glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells for energy. Insulin is very important for carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Not getting enough chromium in your diet can affect insulin's ability to process these nutrients.
It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of all Americans' diets are low in chromium. Eating a lot of highly processed foods may contribute to this problem because foods lose chromium during the refining process. Children with protein-calorie malnutrition, people who have diabetes, and older people may be especially at risk for chromium deficiency. Eating too many sugary foods, exercising strenuously, and having an infection or physical injury can cause your body to lose chromium. Low chromium levels can increase blood sugar and raise triglyceride (a type of fat) and cholesterol levels.
Here is a list of some of the health problems associated with low chromium levels.
- Diabetes. People
with diabetes cannot adequately process blood sugar. People who
have type 1 diabetes need insulin shots to help them process
- Type 2 diabetics
can often control their blood sugar with diet alone. Studies
show that taking chromium supplements can improve the ability
of people with type 2 diabetes to process blood sugar, especially
if their body's store of chromium is low
- Some people
have higher than normal blood sugar (hyperglycemia), but are
not considered diabetic. These people often have low chromium
levels and can also benefit from taking chromium supplements.
High blood sugar levels due to low chromium levels is a common
problem among older people.
Hypoglycemia is the opposite of hyperglycemia and diabetes. People
who have hypoglycemia have low blood sugar. Low chromium levels
may be a contributing factor of hypoglycemia in some people.
Taking 200 mcg of chromium a day may improve the symptoms of
disease. Low chromium levels are associated with increased blood
cholesterol and a greater risk of developing heart disease. Taking
chromium supplements has been shown to increase HDL ("good")
cholesterol and lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels
in people with diabetes and people with high blood sugar.
- Glaucoma. Chromium
affects insulin receptors in the eye. There is a strong association
between low chromium levels and increased risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma
is a common problem among people with diabetes.
- Obesity. Preliminary
evidence suggests that taking chromium supplements may help reduce
body fat and increase muscle tissue.
- Osteoporosis. Chromium picolinate has been shown to decrease urinary excretion of calcium and hydroxyproline in women, and may help preserve bone density in postmenopausal women.
Brewer's yeast, lean meats (especially processed meats), cheeses, pork kidney, whole-grain breads and cereals, molasses, spices, and some bran cereals.
Brewer's yeast grown in chromium-rich soil is the best dietary source for chromium. Vegetables, fruits, and most refined and processed foods (except for some processed meats, which contain high amounts of chromium) contain low amounts of chromium. Hard tap water can supply 1 to 70 percent of your daily requirement. Cooking in stainless steel cookware increases the chromium content of food.
Chromium is available commercially in several forms, including chromium polynicotinate, chromium picolinate, chromium-enriched yeast, and chromium chloride. Chromium is available in multivitamins and alone in tablet and capsule forms. Preparation doses are typically between 15 and 200 mcg chromium a day in multivitamins.
How to Take It
To prevent and treat disease, you should take between 100 to 200 mcg of chromium daily.
As with all medicines and supplements, check with a health care provider before giving chromium supplements to a child.
The form of chromium found in foods is generally nontoxic. However, extremely high amounts can cause toxicity and gastric irritation. High amounts or tissue accumulation of chromium can make insulin less effective. Check with your health care provider before taking chromium if you have diabetes, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia.
Chromium combines with niacin to form glucose tolerance factor (GTF). Calcium carbonate and antacids reduce the absorption of chromium.Excerpt from Integrative Medicine Access Copyright © 1999 Integrative Medicine Communications
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