What Is Chromium?
Chromium is a trace mineral, one of several that are essential in a healthy diet. Trace minerals, as the name suggests, are only required in the human body in trace (small) amounts. Other minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are needed in larger quantities. Chromium minerals support insulin function in the body, which can have a positive effect on energy levels, weight loss and blood sugar disorders such as hypoglycemia and diabetes. Since many diets are chromium deficient, chromium supplements, which are very affordable, are extremely popular.
About Chromium Mineral Supplements
Two common forms of chromium supplements are GTF chromium or chromium polynicotinate (niacin-bound chromium) and chromium picolinate. Both cost approximately the same and there is no definitive proof that one is better than the other is. See the sections on chromium picolinate and GTF chromium for more information.
Chromium has been shown to have several health benefits, particularly in relation to chromium and blood sugar. This metallic element, required in a very small amount, is a key part of metabolic processes in the body that regulate blood sugar. Chromium helps insulin to transport glucose into cells so that it can be converted into energy. It is likely also involved in metabolizing protein, fat and carbohydrates. The chromium/blood sugar connection makes this a potentially valuable supplement for type 2 diabetics, though additional studies are needed. Chromium can also help to raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, and this trace mineral may help prevent heart disease. Chromium may also help build muscle, burn fat and aid in how the body uses carbohydrates. Because it slows calcium loss, chromium may help prevent bone loss in menopausal women (1).
What Are the Symptoms of Chromium Deficiency?
An inadequate amount of chromium in the diet has been shown to possibly lead to glucose intolerance, which is seen in type 2 diabetes. A deficiency in chromium may contribute to developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Even a mild deficiency may cause blood sugar metabolism problems and symptoms of fatigue or anxiety. A change in cholesterol metabolism, reduction in growth in the young and slow healing after surgery or injury might be caused by a deficiency in chromium. Studies have shown that 25-50 percent of Americans are mildly deficient in chromium, partly due to lower levels of chromium in the soil. Chromium from the diet is absorbed slowly, becoming slower with age, which is why elderly people are more at risk.
Chromium Side Effects and Cautions
Further studies are needed to examine how chromium affects blood sugar, so diabetics taking chromium supplements should do so only under their doctor’s supervision. Those who use prescribed medicines to control blood sugar should also consult their physician before taking chromium.
- 1. WebMD: Digestive Disorders: Chromium – Topic Overview.