Supplefacts

Chromium

Chromium

Authored By Murigi

Chromium is one of the minerals needed in very small amounts in the body. This however, doesn’t mean that it is of little importance. It is necessary for vital physiological functions to maintain specific body processes and overall health. There are two naturally occurring forms of chromium. One is referred to as trivalent chromium and the other is hexavalent chromium. The first is important to health as it is biologically active while the second type is a toxic and carcinogenic pollutant.

This mineral is essential to the body which means that it has to be sourced from outside the body through the food we eat.

Functions of chromium in the body

According to the National Institute of Health – Office of Dietary Supplement (NIH), the exact mechanism of chromium action in the body is not well understood. Neither is the amount needed for optimal health known. Research has however, indicated that this mineral is important in the metabolism of sugars in the body. This is through the support of insulin activity. It subsequently helps in the proper metabolism of:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats and
  • Proteins

The exact mechanism of how chromium functions is a subject of ongoing research. It is however, thought to involve a number of substances that include:

  • A chromium binding compound called chromodulin
  • Tyrosinase kinase
  • Insulin receptors

The process ends by increasing glucose uptake and rate of its storage. This is thought to play an important role in counteracting conditions that contribute to insulin resistance. Excess freely circulating free radicals and factors that support abnormal inflammation are some of the suspected causes of insulin resistance. In short, chromium promotes the effectiveness of insulin.

The body can store chromium in its soft tissues and organs that include the liver and the spleen. Storage can also be in the bones.

Signs and symptoms of chromium deficiency

Chromium deficiency may be identified through investigations associated with type 2 diabetes.  Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Abnormal blood glucose levels
  • Abnormal glucose tolerance tests
  • Chronic tiredness
  • Weak bones and increased risk of fractures
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Poor eye health
  • Failing memory
  • Poor mental focus
  • Skin disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Poor growth and development in children and adolescents

Chromium deficiency may present with diabetes, metabolic syndrome or the complications of these disorders. 

Chromium deficiency risk

Overt chromium deficiency in human beings is rare. However, a sizable part of the population is thought to suffer from subclinical deficiency that can contribute to health problems.

 Low dietary intake of chromium is one of the main contributors of deficiency. Soils that are low in the mineral have also been suspected to play a part in low levels in the foods known to contain chromium. When this is coupled with the fact that the mineral is naturally absorbed poorly in the gut, the problem becomes worse. Only about 2.5% of total chromium taken orally is absorbed in the gut. The rest is eliminated in stools. Foods that are rich in vitamin C and B3 (niacin) helps to promote better absorption of the mineral. For this reason any nutritional supplement containing chromium should also have the two vitamins among other ingredients. A good example of such a product is basic.

Other risk factors of chromium deficiency include:

  • Persistent consumption of diets with high contents of simple sugars. This lead to increased chromium losses in urine.
  • Acute or chronic infections
  • Intense exercises
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • Chronic stressful conditions
  • Patients on intravenous feeding without chromium as an ingredient
  • People who have undergone gut resection surgery
  • The elderly

Sources of chromium

Chromium can mainly be sourced from plants and animal food products. Nutritional supplements are also popular sources of the mineral. Plant sources include:

  • Broccoli
  • Herbs such as black pepper, garlic, and basil
  • Grapes
  • Whole wheat products
  • Green beans
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Apples with peels

Chromium supplements are available as a standalone supplement or as part of other ingredients in a multivitamin/multi-mineral product. There are different forms of the chromium in these supplements. These include:

  • Chromium chloride
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Chromium nicotinate
  • High chromium yeast

Basic contains chromium picolinate. This is the most popular form which also has a good bioavailability effect. The amount in this supplement will provide about 42% of what your body requires per day.

When choosing a chromium supplement, confirm that it contains at least vitamin C and B3 in its list of ingredients. As already mentioned above, these vitamins promote the absorption of the mineral in the gut. For overall health, look for other important vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, as well as other minerals that include Calcium, magnesium, manganese and others.

Health benefits of chromium

Although the exact mechanism of action of chromium has not been fully understood, research suggests that it has the following benefits among many others:

  • Helps in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and gestation diabetes
  • Supports health cardiovascular functions
  • Supports healthy blood lipid levels
  • Supports health blood vessels
  • May help to improve muscle mass
  • Thought to play a role in weight loss
  • By extension, it can contribute to improved sexual health since diabetes is one of the main causes of sexual difficulties.

Chromium dosage

The U.S Food and Nutritional Board and the Institute of Medicine recommend the amounts in the table below as adequate intake of chromium.

Stage of life

Age

Males (µg/day)

Females (µg/day)

 

Up to 6 months

0.2

0.2

 

7-12 months

5.5

5.5

 

1-3 years

11

11

 

4-8 years

15

15

 

9-13 years

25

21

 

14-18 years

35

24

 

19-50 years

35

25

 

51 years and over

30

20

Pregnancy

18 years and below

-

29

Pregnancy

19 years and over

-

30

Breastfeeding

18 years and below

-

44

Breastfeeding

19 years and over

-

45

 

Excessive intake of chromium can lead to health problems. This is unlikely to happen with dietary sources of the mineral. To avoid toxic effects, supplements must be taken as per the manufacturers recommended dose. Any unusual symptoms after taking a chromium containing supplement should be reported to your health specialist.

Interactions

Chromium supplements can interact with certain medications or nutritional products. These include:

  • Heart medicines in the class of beta-blockers
  • Some analgesic drugs
  • Some anti-inflammatory medications
  • Insulin
  • Antacids containing high amounts of magnesium hydroxide or calcium carbonate
  • Corticosteroids
  • Aspirin

If you are on any of these or other medications, consult your doctor before using chromium supplements. For a wholesome chromium containing multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement, click here for more information

References

Anderson RA, Cheng N, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, Chi J, Feng J. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes 1997;46:1786–91.

Bahadori, B., SANDRA, W., Hacker, C., Boes, U., Komorowski, J., & Wascher, T. C. (1999). Effects of chromium picolinate on insulin levels and glucose control in obese patients with type-II diabetes mellitus. Diabetes, 48(5), SA349-SA349.

Henry C. Lukaski Annual Review of Nutrition 1999 19:1, 279-302

Megan Ware RDN LD. (2017, May 22). "Chromium: Health benefits, sources, and potential risks." Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288177.php. 

 

 

 

 



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