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Chromium is a trace mineral that is found in very small amounts in the human body. Scientists believe that it helps insulin bring glucose into the cells for energy, performing an important metabolic task. Because of this, many researchers believe that chromium can be helpful in reducing blood sugar in cases of Type 2 diabetes. Chromium may also play a part in reducing high blood pressure.


What Chromium Does:

Chromium has been shown to have a number of important effects in the body. It is an important element in the metabolism of glucose into energy, as well as assisting in the conversion of fat, proteins and carbohydrates into energy for your body to use. Specifically, it seems to help regulate the effects of insulin on sugar, making it an important dietary need for those who are either prediabetic or have type II diabetes.


In addition, chromium is essential in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and may help promote muscle tone, as well as lowering cholesterol in the blood. Because chromium activates several enzymes, it also is important for healthy brain function and a number of chemical processes necessary for life.


Where Chromium Comes From:

Chromium can be derived from food, including cereals, black pepper, thyme, mushrooms, coffee, teas, beer, broccoli and processed meats. Brewers’ yeast is the richest food source of chromium, but many people find it difficult to digest. Chromium is available in several forms as a dietary supplement, including chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate and chromium picolinate.


Chromium is found in high amounts in relatively few foods. Compounding the problem of dietary availability of chromium is the fact that the body doesn’t absorb chromium from foods very well. Because it is absorbed most easily by the body, most chromium supplements use chromium picolinate. There have been very rare reports of kidney damage related to chromium picolinate, but other forms of chromium supplements have shown no harmful side effects even at high doses.


Health Benefits of Chromium:

Chromium has been one of the most touted mineral supplements for some time. While there have been many overblown claims made for the health benefits of chromium, particularly of chromium picolinate, there are also many genuine health benefits to taking chromium supplements as part of a regular regimen of health supplements. These include:


  • Chromium improves insulin function in the body and leads to better control of glucose in the blood. In some studies, those with type II diabetes have been able to reduce the amount of insulin that they take when they add chromium to their daily supplements.

  • Chromium alleviates depression in those with atypical depression. In a very recent double-blind placebo study, researchers found that chromium picolinate was especially helpful in reducing a number of symptoms of depression in those who reported high carbohydrate cravings. Among the improvements was a reduction in carbohydrate cravings, and higher level of mood improvement on a daily basis.

  • Chromium may be useful in improving lipid profiles – i.e. – lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol. This has been suggested by the results of a handful of studies, but is not yet confirmed.

  • Chromium may help improve muscle/fat composition during weight loss. At least one study showed that those who took a chromium supplement while dieting lost twice as much weight as those who took a placebo. Other studies have had more variable results. More research is needed to help determine the effects of chromium picolinate on weight loss.


Recommended Daily Intake of Chromium:

The adequate daily intake (AI) for chromium as recommended by the National Institutes of Health is as follows:

  • Children 1 to 3 years: 11 mcg

  • Children 4 to 8 years: 15 mcg

  • Boys 9 to 13 years: 25 mcg

  • Teenage boys 14 to 18 years: 35 mcg

  • Girls 9 to 13 years: 21 mcg

  • Teenage girls 14 to 18 years: 24 mcg

  • Pregnant teenagers 14 to 18 years: 29 mcg

  • Breastfeeding teenagers 14 to 18 years: 44 mcg


  • Men 19 to 50 years: 35 mcg

  • Men 51 years and older: 30 mcg

  • Women 19 to 50 years: 25 mcg

  • Women 51 years and older: 20 mcg

  • Pregnant women 19 years and older: 30 mcg

  • Breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 30 mcg

Dosages recommended for disease prevention are generally in the range of 300 mcg per day, and for treatment of diabetes can be as high as 1000 mcg per day. The safety of dosages that high for an extended period of time has not been established.

Symptoms of Chromium Deficiency:

Chromium deficiencies have been associated with impaired glucose tolerance, and may affect the ability of insulin to regulate sugar balance. Low chromium levels may also cause high cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of heart disease. It is often associated with insulin resistance, hyperglycemia and abnormalities of lipids in the boold. Sever chromium deficiency is rare, but can cause weight loss, peripheral neuropathy and inflammation of the brain.


More commonly, low levels of chromium in the body seem to be associated with type II diabetes, high blood sugar and insulin resistance.


Chromium Toxicity:

Extremely high doses of chromium may reduce the effectiveness of insulin and can cause stomach irritation. There have been very rare reports of liver dysfunction and rapid heartbeat, and two reports of kidney damage attributed to chromium picolinate supplements. In addition, one research study reported that chromium picolinate supplements caused chromosome damage – a precursor of cancer – in hamsters. Other forms of chromium did not cause any damage. As a result, many doctors caution against taking chromium picolinate in high doses.


Supplementing with Chromium:

Because the daily requirement for chromium is so low – around 250 mcg – most doctors believe it’s preferable to get all the chromium your body needs as part of your diet or in a good multivitamin health supplement. Our own preference for a complete health supplement is Total Balance from Xtend-Life natural products of New Zealand. Total Balance includes 2 mgs of chromium as chromium nicotinate, a form that has been shown to be safe. Chromium is only one ingredient in a synergistically balanced formula of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other nutrients that offer a total solution to evening out nutritional needs.


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