More people think of chromium as something that makes their car bumper shine than an essential trace mineral needed by your body every day. But wait a minute…how can chromium be both an essential and a trace mineral at the same time? Simply put, it’s a mineral we need, but we need it in very small quantities. Chromium is needed for energy and to maintain stable blood sugar levels. It also plays a vital role in the breakdown of cholesterol, fats and proteins in our body. Chromium’s primary role is as a glucose tolerance factor; it is responsible for stimulating the activity of insulin to assist in the process of metabolizing sugars which give the tissues and cells inside your body the energy they need to carry out activities such as muscle building and nervous system functions. Despite the fact that chromium is found in beef and beer, only about 10% of North Americans get enough chromium through their diet because many of us consume a diet overloaded with sugars and processed foods which will leach the chromium right out of your system. The other stumbling block to getting enough chromium from diet alone is that chromium amounts in food vary according to the season, cultivation area and country of origin. Some soils don’t contain as much chromium as others.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE:
What Does That Look Like?
|Broccoli, ½ cup|
Grape juice, 1 cup
English muffin, whole wheat, 1
Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup
Orange juice, 1 cup
Turkey breast, 3 oz.
Apple, medium, unpeeled, 1
THE FUNCTIONS OF CHROMIUM IN THE BODY
Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the body. Chromium also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. 1 If weight loss occurs during chromium supplementation, it is not because chromium directly causes weight loss, but because it is thought to be actively involved in increasing lean body mass which then, in turn, burns more fat. Chromium may help suppress the desire for sugar and carbohydrates since it causes the existing insulin to work more efficiently in the body.
Because chromium is involved in the metabolism of glucose, it is needed for energy. Chromium works closely with insulin to facilitate the uptake of glucose into cells, thus lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels, making glucose available for cells to use for energy. This makes chromium a valuable nutrient for those living with diabetes and hypoglycemia.
Chromium can help an expectant mother maintain healthy blood sugar levels during pregnancy as the baby can increase the demand for this mineral. Addition of this supplement should always be discussed by the mom-to-be with her primary health care provider before adding it to her regimen.
Chromium helps prevent hardening and thickening of arteries, helps to form muscles and reduce cholesterol.
Nutrients that work in conjunction with chromium include nicotinic acid (a version of vitamin B3), and the amino acids that make up glutathione; glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine.
SIGNS OF A CHROMIUM DEFICIENCY
The average American diet is chromium deficient. Only one in ten Americans has an adequate amount of chromium in his or her diet. There are five main reasons for this:
- The form of chromium in many foods is not easily absorbed.
- Not enough foods containing chromium are consumed.
- Much of the chromium content is lost during processing.
- Many people do not like the foods that are the best sources of chromium.
- High quantities of sugar in the diet cause a loss of chromium from the body.
The ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels is hindered by the lack of chromium in our soil and water supply and by a diet high in refined white sugar, flour and junk foods. A number of human and animal studies have found that chromium supplements can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in the face of insulin resistance, elevated blood glucose levels, impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes. 2
Experiencing any of the following could indicate a need for more chromium in your diet:
- High blood pressure
- High triglyceride levels
- High blood sugar levels
- High cholesterol levels
- Insulin resistance
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Chronic anxiety
- Chronic fatigue
- Inability to adequately metabolize proteins
- Increased risk of arteriosclerosis
CONDITIONS WHICH CAN BENEFIT FROM TAKING CHROMIUM
Diabetes, Heart Disease, Physical Injury or Trauma or Mental Stress – All these conditions increase the excretion of chromium from the body.
High Cholesterol – Chromium may participate in cholesterol metabolism which means it might be a good addition for someone looking to lower their overall cholesterol levels.
NOTE: People with liver or kidney disease may be more susceptible to adverse effect from excessive intake of chromium and such individuals are cautioned to avoid taking chromium supplements in higher than recommended amounts. Chromium supplementation can cause blood sugar levels to drop. If you are taking insulin or an oral glucose-lowering medication, be sure to consult your primary health care provider before taking chromium supplements.
MORE SPECIFIC SOURCES OF CHROMIUM
Good sources of dietary chromium can be found in beef, beer, black strap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, calf liver, cheese, chicken breast, chicken legs, corn, corn oil, dairy products, dried beans, eggs, fish, seafood, most fresh fruit, mushrooms, potatoes with skin, whole grains and whole grain products.
Remember, processing kills the chromium content so try to ensure that as many as possible of the foods you eat are raw, not processed.
NUTTERS CAN SUGGEST…
Chromium is involved in glucose metabolism and is the major mineral needed for insulin production. Chromium is beneficial for both high and low blood sugar problems. “Chromium works with insulin to drive sugar from your blood into the tissues of your body for use or storage. This mineral is so important in sugar tolerance that severe deficiencies of it cause a diabetes-like illness to develop” Eades, Mary Dan, The Doctor’s Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals, 1994, The Philip Lief Group, Inc. Chromium GTF (glucose tolerance factor) is a very easily absorbed form of chromium, naturally derived from yeast in the safe trivalent form. GTF chromium is naturally bound to glycine, glutamic acid, cysteine and niacin. In contrast, industrial chromium is in a hexavalent form and is toxic.
1. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Healthhttp://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/chromium/
2. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, Seventh Edition, Elaine Marieb
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.