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How Chromium works

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How Chromium works – everything you need to know about this powerful nutrient

As the perhaps lesser-known as some of the other minerals we know of, you might be wondering what chromium is and how it works. Chromium is a mineral that helps our bodies metabolise carbohydrates and fats on a microcellular level and it is an important nutrient. Part of the appeal is that chromium is effective in blood sugar balancing, and many report that it helps them kick their sugar cravings. Chromium helps to reduce blood sugar levels by boosting the capacity of insulin receptors in the body.1 In other words, it helps the body utilise insulin better.

Do you know where chromium is found?

We get most of our chromium from a healthy diet of foods such as whole grains and fresh vegetables — particularly corn and potatoes, and fish. One of the richest sources is nutritional yeast. It is also showing up in protein powders and health supplements.

If you’re eating a varied and healthy diet, the chances are that you are getting enough chromium. Broccoli and grape products are foods with higher levels of chromium.1

Why is chromium so important for diabetics?

In healthy individuals, insulin is a hormone that helps the body bring sugars into the cells to be utilised for energy. In the bodies of people with type 2 diabetes (the most common type), the cells lose their responsiveness to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. In the less common form no insulin is produced at all, as in the case of diabetes type 1, otherwise known as childhood or juvenile diabetes.

The absolute most important step to reducing the onset or progression of diabetes is a significant lifestyle change. Diet and exercise are imperative for mitigating the risks associated with uncontrolled blood glucose levels. But in reality, these lifestyle changes are often elusive goals.

Controlling diabetes (or reducing the advancement of prediabetes) by pharmacological means often has side effects. In some studies, over-the-counter chromium supplementation showed promising results in obese subjects and their body’s response and utilisation of insulin.2

Scientists believe that chromium augments insulin’s binding capabilities. There has been some association of type 2 diabetes with low chromium levels. And when study participants had their chromium levels increase to normal, they also saw a decrease in their blood glucose levels.

A large multiyear study of 62,000 participants analysed type 2 diabetes incidence and chromium supplementation (usually in the form of a multivitamin that contained it). The participants who took a supplement of chromium had a 27 percent lower chance of having diabetes.3

However, another study noted that chromium may have assisted in lowering study participants’ fasting blood sugar (usually the blood glucose level upon waking in the morning after not having eaten for eight to twelve hours) but that didn’t necessarily improve their A1C.4

The A1C is the laboratory blood test that helps determine a person’s average blood sugar level over the past three months.

If you’re not a diabetic can you still benefit from chromium?

Generally speaking the studies in which chromium may have a positive health effect on blood glucose levels were studies in which the participants already had diabetes (as opposed to healthy individuals).5 This could be due to a healthy diet largely providing the necessary amounts of chromium to our bodies.

If you don’t have diabetes though, chromium can still be beneficial – particularly for those looking to reduce their sugar intake or lose weight, as some evidence has suggested that chromium can help with food cravings and can suppress appetite. 6

If you are prediabetic or have diabetes, talk with your health care professional about appropriate chromium supplementation as an addition to your lifestyle changes but even if you are in perfect health, it’s still important to get enough chromium to maintain it.

  1. ods.od.nih. gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/ [] []
  2. Hua, Yinan, et al. “Molecular Mechanisms of Chromium in Alleviating Insulin Resistance.” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, vol. 23, no. 4, Apr. 2012, pp. 313–319, doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.11.001.s []
  3. McIver, David J, et al. “Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Is Lower in US Adults Taking Chromium-Containing Supplements.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 145, no. 12, Dec. 2015, pp. 2675–2682, doi:10.3945/jn.115.214569. []
  4. Abdollahi, Mohammad, et al. “Effect of Chromium on Glucose and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes; A Meta-Analysis Review of Randomized Trials.” Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 16, no. 1, 2013, p. 99, doi:10.18433/j3g022. []
  5. Michelle D Althuis, Nicole E Jordan, Elizabeth A Ludington, Janet T Wittes. Glucose and insulin responses to dietary chromium supplements: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 76, Issue 1, July 2002, pp. 148–6155, []
  6. Anton, Stephen D, et al. “Effects of Chromium Picolinate on Food Intake and Satiety.” Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, vol. 10, no. 5, Oct. 2008, pp. 405–412, doi:10.1089/ dia.2007.0292 []