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Chromium. The most important mineral for those who are overweight.

Chromium is one of the key minerals involved in controlling both blood sugar levels and fat levels. As the main component of Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), chromium assists insulin in reducing blood glucose, by stimulating glucose uptake by the muscles and other tissues.

When chromium levels are low, the circulating level of GTF is low, and insulin is then less effective in reducing blood sugar. Blood sugar levels therefore remain high, stimulating further insulin release, which is still blocked from being effective etc, etc. The perpetuation of this cycle, and its resultant effects are known as insulin resistance, the precondition leading to diabetes.

From the chapter on Glycaemic index, you will recall that insulin also has the effect of both preventing fat metabolism and stimulating fat storage. Chromium is therefore key to ensuring that fat can be metabolised and used as a fuel by the body.

Functions of Chromium in the body

  • Regulation of blood sugar
  • Moderates cholesterol levels
  • Contributes to lean muscle mass
  • Promotes arterial health
  • Boosts immune system
  • Stimulates protein synthesis

Chromium deficiency

The short term symptoms of chromium deficiency are those of glucose intolerance, such as hypoglycaemia and mood swings associated with rapid and large swings in blood glucose levels, especially after carbohydrate rich meals. This is especially important if the carbohydrates involved have a high glycaemic index.

Longer term, the problems can be expected are those associated with diabetes, which is an almost inevitable consequence of chromium deficiency. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and obesity are all to be expected.

Symptoms of Chromium deficiency

Hypo (and hyper) glycaemia
High blood pressure
Arterial disease (heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease)
High cholesterol (though Vitamin C will help this)
Mood swings

Factors which reduce Chromium levels

Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates, such as white flour, white pasta, white rice, potatoes and processed foods will "use up" chromium at a high rate and can lead to deficiencies. Lack of exercise can also be associated with low levels of chromium, although the mechanism is unclear.

Normal amounts of Chromium in the diet

There is little information and no official recommendations regarding chromium requirements. Studies have show doses of 200-400 mcg/day to be effective in aiding weight loss, especially in the obese. A general guide is children, 50150 mcg/day, adults 100-400mcg/day. In cases of obesity, doses up to 600mcg/day have been shown to be effective and well-tolerated, possibly due to the poor absorption of some forms of chromium supplements.

Sources of dietary Chromium

Source mcg/100g
Egg yolks 183
Molasses 121
Brewers yeast 117
Beef 57
Cheese 56
Calf liver 55
Grape juice 47
Whole wheat Bread 42
Wheat Bran 38
Raw Cane Sugar 35
Rye Bread 30
Honey 29
Potatoes 27
Wheat Germ 23
Green bell Pepper 19
Chicken (leg) 18
Whole wheat pasta 15
Apple 14
Parsnips 13
Cornmeal 12
Spinach 10
Bananas 10
Carrots 9
Haddock 7
Blueberries 5

Chromium supplements

It has been suggested that a minimum dose of 200mcg per day should be used by all non-diabetic adults, however opinion varies. Some, high quality multimineral supplements will include chromium at appropriate dosages.

People requiring additional Chromium.

Those who are overweight
People who eat a lot of carbohydrates, especially high glycaemic index carbohydrates
People who do very little exercise

Which form of Chromium to take?

Several forms of chromium supplement exist. Most are fairly poorly absorbed, although we have no specific comparative data at present. Chromium piccolinate, chromium polynicotinate, chromium chloride and chromium enriched yeast are all commonly available.

Back from Chromium to trace elements

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