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Home :: Chromium

Chromium - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

What is Chromium?

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that the body needs to grow properly and remain healthy. The only form of Chromium used by the body is trivalent chromium. Because it is involved in the metabolism of glucose, chromium (sometimes also called glucose tolerance factor or GTF) is needed for energy. It is also vital in the synthesis of cholesterol, fats, and proteins. This essential mineral maintains stable blood sugar levels through proper insulin utilization, and can be helpful both for people with diabetes and those with hypoglycemia. After calcium, chromium is the most popular mineral supplement on the American market today - and one of the most controversial.

Supplemental chromium is best absorbed by the body when it is taken in a form called chromium picolinate (chromium chelated with picolinate, a naturally occurring amino acid metabolite). Picolinate enables chromium to readily enter into the body's cells, where the mineral can then help insulin do its job much more effectively. Chromium picolinate has been used successfully to control blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. It also promotes the loss of fat and an increase in lean muscle tissue. Studies show it may increase longevity and help to fight osteoporosis. Chromium polynicotinate (chromium bonded to niacin) is an effective form of this mineral as well.

Uses and Benefits of Chromium

Chromium plays an important role in the liver synthesis of fatty acids (burns fat) , and helps the body regulate metabolism, insulin and blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that low plasma chromium levels can be an indication of coronary artery disease. Additional chromium is needed during pregnancy because the developing fetus increases demand for this mineral. Chromium supplements can help an expectant mother maintain healthy blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Chromium helps the body lose weight by stimulating enzymes that metabolize glucose for energy. If a body is chromium deficient, it takes twice as long for insulin to remove glucose from the blood. Chromium enhances insulin performance and glucose utilization and helps carry proteins. It works best if taken before meals.

Recommended Dosage of Chromium

There is no Recommended Daily Allowance for chromium. Estimates indicate that 50 to 200 mcg a day is safe and adequate for adults.

Deficiency Symptoms of Chromium

A deficiency of chromium can lead to anxiety, fatigue, glucose intolerance (particularly in people with diabetes), inadequate metabolism of amino acids, and an increased risk of arteriosclerosis. Excessive intake (the level depends upon individual tolerance) can lead to chromium toxicity, which has been associated with dermatitis, gastrointestinal ulcers, and kidney and liver impairment.

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:

  1. The form of chromium in many foods is not easily absorbed.
  2. Not enough foods containing chromium are consumed.
  3. Much of the chromium content is lost during processing.
  4. Many people do not like the foods that are the best sources of chromium.
  5. High quantities of sugar in the diet cause a loss of chromium from the body.

Researchers estimate that two out of every three Americans are hypoglycemic, pre­hypoglycemic, or diabetic. The ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels is jeopardized by the lack of chromium in our soil and water supply and by a diet high in refined white sugar, flour, and junk foods.

Rich Food Sources of Chromium

Chromium is found in the following food sources: beer, brewer's yeast, brown rice, cheese, meat, and whole grains. It may also be found in dried beans, blackstrap molasses, calf liver, chicken, corn and corn oil, dairy products, dried liver, dulse, eggs, mushrooms, and potatoes. Herbs that contain chromium include catnip, horsetail, licorice, nettle, oat straw, red clover, sarsaparilla, wild yam, and yarrow.

Some more information on Chromium

Active, athletic individuals-people who engage in vigorous aerobic activities and consume higher amounts of carbohydrates than the general population-have higher chromium requirements than nonathletes. Chromium levels start to decrease as we age, starting in our early forties. Some smaller studies have confirmed that added chromium in the diet can reduce total body fat and increase the percentage of muscle.


If you have insulin-dependent diabetes, you should not use chromium unless it is prescribed by your health care provider. Chromium supplements can make insulin function more effectively and, in effect, reduce insulin requirements. People with diabetes therefore have to monitor their blood sugar levels very carefully when using chromium. Chromium requirements differ from person to person; consult your health care provider to determine the correct amount of this mineral for you.

Some people experience lightheadedness or a slight skin rash when taking chromium. If you feel lightheaded, stop taking the supplement and consult your health care provider. If you develop a rash, either try switching brands or discontinue use.

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