An essential trace mineral, chromium is needed for the growth and health of the body. Among other things, it is needed for the breakdown of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Chromium has become the most popular mineral supplement in America, after calcium. It is also one of the most controversial.
Chromium offers a mixed bag of good and bad effects. In the positive light, it was reported that chromium supplements would help burn fat and lower blood sugar levels. Chromium supplements are also supposed to build muscle mass, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
A recent study shows that chromium seems to have a mild cholesterol lowering effect. Further research may prove that chromium is helpful in lowering triglyceride levels, while raising the HDL (good) levels. However overdose may lead to complications and chromium supplements are best used under medical supervision.
Chromium may help to
• Control diabetes In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas tries to regulate blood sugar levels by secreting insulin. A molecule called “Glucose Tolerance Factor” (GTF) increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin. The GTF molecule contains chromium. Therefore, chromium supplements may help normalize blood sugar levels.
Several clinical tests have proven that diabetics who were on chromium supplements were able to reduce their dosage of medication. The effects of chromium are enhanced when taken with niacin (vitamin B3). Studies have also revealed that chromium may have a stabilizing effect on people with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), thus doing away with symptoms like headache, nausea, fatigue, and irritability.
• Assist weight loss Chromium picolinate assists people with obesity to lose weight. It helps to improve body composition by increasing muscle mass and reducing fat. But studies reveal mixed results because people using chromium supplements lose just about the same amount of weight as people using placebos. It is possible that when combined with a healthy diet and a rigorous exercise program, chromium supplements may aid weight loss.
• Prevent heart disease Chromium may help raise the HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and lower the LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels. There is no proof regarding this and a good diet program combined with exercise can accomplish the same thing.
Chromium is naturally available in the food we eat, and most people who eat a healthy diet do not need chromium supplements. But supplements (not just of chromium) become indispensable in a high-fat diet that depends on over-refined ingredients. Therefore some people develop a chromium deficiency, and in such cases, chromium supplements are necessary.
Chromium comes in the form of a capsule, softgel or tablet. While there is no recommended dosage for chromium, 50 to 200 mcg taken on a daily basis is adequate for adults. Most basic vitamin-mineral combinations have enough chromium to prevent a deficiency. The body seems capable of absorbing all forms of chromium equally well. For optimal absorption, it is better to combine chromium with vitamin C. Taking antacids may impair absorption of this mineral. Excessive amounts of chromium may lead to a deficiency in zinc.
While there have been no indications regarding side effects, overdose may lead to kidney failure. A woman who was on a 1,000 mcg daily dosage developed kidney failure after a few months. Long-term and high-dose chromium supplements may damage the body.
Chromium picolinate may cause a chromosomal damage that leads to cancer. Diabetics must consult with a doctor before taking chromium supplements. Chromium picolinate also alters certain brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Therefore people with any behavioral disorder should consult a doctor before taking chromium supplements. Chromium may have unknown effects on pregnant or lactating women.