Chromium is an essential trace element involved with proper metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids in the body. Chromium supplements may be useful in a number of health conditions: even though chromium is needed in only small amounts, it is a key mineral in the body.
is not found in nature as a free metal, so it must be reduced to its elemental form to make the "chrome" used in the auto industry. This form, however, is not available to the body, so we cannot meet our daily chromium needs by sucking on car bumpers! The chromium in the blood is in the organic active form.
Chromium is a difficult mineral to absorb. Figures range from 0.5-3% absorption for the inorganic chromium salts often found in food. The organic complexes of chromium, such as glucose tolerance factor
), are absorbed better, at about 10-20%. The kidneys
clear any excess from the blood, while much of chromium intake is eliminated through the feces. This mineral is stored in many parts of the body, including the skin, fat, brain, muscles, spleen
, kidneys, and testes.Food Sources
Food refinement and the loss of topsoil through poor agricultural practices reduce the level of chromium in foods. The process of refining removes chromium from grains. As a result, foods such as white flour and white rice are low in chromium. Most Americans get only 50-100mcg of chromium per day through diet.
There are, however, still many good food sources. Since GTF is better absorbed than inorganic chromium, the level and activity of GTF in foods affects how well they supply us with this mineral. GTF activity may not always correspond to the actual amount of chromium in foods; however, many foods with good GTF activity also have good amounts of chromium. Hard water often contains some chromium; it may supply up to half of the daily needs of an adult.
is likely the best available source of chromium as well as having the highest GTF activity. About two tablespoons
, or six tablets, per day supply most of our chromium needs; however, many people – perhaps 30-40% – do not tolerate yeast very well and find that it causes digestive upset or bloating
. If yeast is tolerated, it supplies a great many nutrients and is a low-calorie and low-fat source.
Following yeast in chromium concentration are beef, liver
, whole wheat, rye, fresh chilies, oysters, potatoes, wheat germ, green peppers, eggs, chicken, apples, butter, bananas, and spinach. Yeast (44ppm), black pepper (10ppm), and molasses (2ppm) are good sources of chromium, but since they are usually consumed in small quantities, it is best to have other chromium foods in the diet. In general, the whole grains, meats, shellfish, chicken, wheat germ and bran, and many vegetables, especially potato skins, are adequate sources. Beets and mushrooms may contain chromium.Non-food Sources
There are many chromium supplements available. Chromium is available in supplements under the names chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, chromium chloride and others. These supplements have gained a great deal of attention as a means to lose weight. More research is needed to confirm any results to date.
Chromium supplements are either niacin-bound (preferred) or salt based; and may be included in weightloss, cholesterol
reducing, or insulin
) supporting products. Niacin-bound chromium is now available yeast-free.
Function; Why it is RecommendedChromium
has been shown to lower serum cholesterol
levels and raise healthy HDL
levels. Chromium also increases glucose
tolerance, another important aspect of artery
The brain is highly dependent on glucose as an energy substrate. A drop in blood glucose levels may result in the release of regulatory hormones, i.e. epinephrine
, glucagon, cortisol
, and growth hormone. Chronic and gradual decreases in blood sugar results in a gradual increase in these regulatory hormones which leads to symptoms of dizziness, headache, clouding of vision, mental acuity, emotional instability, confusion, and abnormal behavior.
As a part of Glucose Tolerant Factor (GTF
in its ability to regulate glucose levels in the blood. GTF, a niacin
bound chromium found most commonly in brewer's yeast
, has been shown to lower cholesterol
levels when taken as a supplement.
Research has further demonstrated that insulin is transported through the blood-brain barrier and influences brain function via widely distributed receptors and neurons. Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin and facilitate the uptake of blood sugar into cells. This is important considering that the average western diet is chromium deficient with 2 out of every 3 American being hypoglycemic.
The greatest benefits of increasing intake of chromium
are seen in people who are severely deficient in the mineral. In these cases, it has been shown to improve glucose
Investigators have revealed that psychiatric patients do have higher incidences of hypoglycemia
and the correction of any underlying aberrant glucose metabolism is the first step in treating this group.
Chromium supplementation may be efficacious in the treatment of depression
as seen in anecdotal reports of improved mood in clinical depressives receiving chromium picolinate.
For adults, a safe and healthy amount is between 50 and 200mcg per day.
As one ages, the ability to absorb chromium
decreases. Since there is no US RDA for chromium, many of the elderly population may be ingesting inadequate amounts of chromium in their diet. The deficiency limits for chromium are thought to be around 50mcg/day.
in supplements is found to be mostly safe and consuming harmful amounts from food is very unlikely. However, excess intake can hinder, rather than help, the use of insulin