Chromium is an essential mineral that enjoys numerous roles in the well-functioning of the human body. The human body itself is not able to produce Chromium, but instead, the nutrient should be obtained from various dieting sources. The element was discovered and since prepared in 1797 in France, by a scientist named Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin. The name of the element originates in the Greek word “chroma” which means “color,” due to a large number of colored components displayed by chromium.
The element is primarily available in two forms: the trivalent form (known as Chromium 3+), which is a form found in food and biologically active and the hexavalent form (or Chromium 6+), which results from various industrial processes and is of pollutant, toxic origin.
The importance of the element of the human body has been heavily studied, as scientists discovered a broad spectrum of roles and benefits, including such ones as breaking down insulin, maintaining normal cholesterol levels, assisting with metabolism, or preventing bone loss in older, menopausal women. These plus other essential functions of the element will be detailed in the following sections of this review.
Chromium natural sources are abundant, and a healthy and balanced diet should ensure the safe and optimum intake of this mineral. However, for those who for some reason do not assimilate enough Chromium or are unable to take their daily requirements from dietary sources, supplementation is available, preferably under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
Chromium Functions & Benefits
The health enhancing benefits of Chromium have been the subject of numerous studies over the past year, with an emphasis on its importance in regulating metabolism, enhancing insulin action, and regulation of fat levels and cholesterol in the body.
A deficiency is very unlikely and has only been documented in several patients who were fed intravenously for extended periods of time of time. Normal dieting should prevent any imbalances in the levels of Chromium synthesized from food. Signs of a deficiency include loss of weight, confusion, and, in extreme cases, peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage).
Chromium helps metabolize carbohydrates; this is why the nutrient enjoys great popularity in various weight loss programs. It appears that it can reduce cravings and suppress appetite, hence assisting dieters in achieving their goals. Although research that supports this hypothesis is still limited, more and more products advertise Chromium as a core element for weight loss purposes. One study indicates that an eight-week intake of Chromium Picolinate (600 micrograms per day) may significantly reduce carbohydrate cravings, particularly for people with severe needs.
Carbohydrates are broken down to sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream, from where it is taken and used to produce life-sustaining energy. The level of sugar in the blood stream influences a rise in insulin and imbalances may lead to diabetes. Chromium helps control how sugar is released into the blood and normalize blood sugar levels, as a significant number of research studies seem to indicate. By improving blood sugar utilization, the mineral contributes to the prevention of numerous health complications, including type II diabetes.
Also, it appears that Chromium may also play a role in fat metabolism, with implications on cholesterol and triglycerides level. Some heart diseases and blood vessel conditions have been linked to unhealthy levels of cholesterol; therefore Chromium may present itself as a solution to these health conditions.
Another important role of the element is related to insulin signaling. The exact way that the nutrient does this has eluded scientists so far; however, there is empirical evidence that this happens. Insulin resistance or reduced insulin signaling are dangerous and ultimately contribute to such serious conditions as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Health-promoting measures include exercise and special diets, but recent studies seem to indicate that Chromium intakes are also a viable solution. The findings are consistent with several studies which reveal that the nutrient may help improve glucose control in those that have an insulin resistance problem or have glucose intolerance.
Another use of Chromium which has received much interest and attention is linked to its ability to reduce body fat. A limited number of scientifically documented research studies and experiments seem to point out that Chromium (Picolinate) may contribute to reducing body fat and increase lean body mass. These findings encourage the use of Chromium in weight loss programs.
Regarding safety, it appears that supplementation is safe and side effects are extremely rare. Most formulas will supply 200 to 600 micrograms of Chromium per day, in the form of Chromium Picolinate, Chloride or polynicotinate. Usually, the nutrient is combined with several other vitamins and minerals, for better absorption and effectiveness.
Adequate intakes of Chromium vary with the age, gender and health condition of the patient. For children no older than eight, the daily allowance should not exceed 15 mcg. Children 9 to 13 should take 25 mcg per day (males) or 21 mcg daily (females). Adults, up to 50 years of age may take 35 mcg of Chromium daily (males) or 24-25 mcg for women. Pregnant and lactating women usually require an increased intake (29-30 mcg per day for pregnant women and 40-45 mcg for lactating women, depending on the age of the mother).
The mineral is likely safe for most people, provided daily allowance is not exceeded. As previously stated, a deficiency of this mineral is unlikely. However there are certain groups of people that are more likely to be exposed to developing a Chromium related problem. These categories include people who already suffer from kidney problems, liver disease, allergies to chromate compounds, diabetes, or conditions that affect mood (depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia in some cases).
Also, certain medications could interact with the nutrient, if taken on a regular basis. Chromium may enhance their effects, impair chromium absorption, increase excretion of the trace mineral from the body or they may help boost absorption of chromium, leading to a set of unwanted side-effects. These medications include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, antacids or H2 blockers. This is why, before starting a dietary supplement treatment, you should talk to a healthcare provider.
Best Chromium Sources
Food sources abundantly supply the mineral; however, most of them provide small amounts per serving (usually no more than two mcg per serving). The most important Chromium sources are provided by vegetables and fruits such as broccoli (11 mcg per half cup), grape juice (8 mcg per cup), and whole grains, but also by animal sources including beef, cheese, meat, and eggs.