Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Chromium is an essential trace mineral the body needs for normal growth, metabolism, maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, diabetes control, heart health, brain health, and weight management.
Chromium also helps protect DNA from damage, thus reducing cell mutations that can lead to various chronic diseases such as cancer. In addition, chromium is associated with cardiovascular health and longevity because it supports the metabolism of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients.
NUTRITIONAL SOURCES OF CHROMIUM
Chromium should be naturally present in various unrefined whole foods, such as brewer’s yeast, broccoli, vegetable salads, potatoes, or whole grains.
Unfortunately, the amount of chromium in the food greatly depends on the quality of soil which in most cases is very poor.
Chromium deficiency is most often associated with a sugar craving. In this case, we are suggested to take about 200 mcg of chromium as it is used in insulin regulation of blood glucose and is important for balancing blood sugar levels thus helping reduce sugar cravings.
“Chromium deficiency is universal today and becomes worse with age. We are witnessing an epidemic of related to chromium deficiency ailments including diabetes, hypoglycaemia, elevated cholesterol, fatigue, and sugar cravings.”
– Helps insulin attach to cell’s receptors increasing cellular glucose uptake (helps reduce insulin resistance)
– Deficiency of Chromium can lead to insulin resistance
– Promotes glucose metabolism & blood sugar levels
– Supports weight loss by reducing sugar cravings & enhanced metabolism of sugar & fat
– Improves heart health, cholesterol levels & helps maintain normal blood pressure
– Promotes strong blood vessels
– Helps build lean muscles
– Supports the nervous system & promotes good mood
CHROMIUM AND DIABETES
Today we know that chromium deficiency can lead to insulin resistance. Chromium is a part of so-called Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) and as such it helps insulin to attach to the insulin receptors and be more effective in opening the cell’s door for sugar, thus lowering its blood levels.
Let’s say I am outside and try to knock at the door to tell you to open the window and let the fresh air in. But, my knocking is very anaemic and you can’t hear it. Fortunately, someone comes to help me, grasps my hand and using it knocks at the door stronger. As a result, you can now hear the nocking and let me in allowing me to tell you to open the window and let the air in. And that is exactly, what the chromium does to insulin increasing its ability to inform cell that the door for the sugar needs to be open.
There are studies that demonstrated the effectiveness of chromium in treating diabetes. For instance, according to the one which was published in 2006, „Chromium & biotin supplementation improves glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
In order to properly address diabetes, many supplements are needed including Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Biotin, Zinc, Potassium, and all B vitamins. However, there are reasons to believe that the most important supplement that according to research can helps balance blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity is Chromium.
Unfortunately, due to soil depletion, refined and high in sugar diet, low consumption of vegetables such as broccoli the deficiency of minerals such as chromium is regarded today as rampant. For this reason, supplements containing Chromium should be recommended.
According to Dr Lawrence Wilson, “Chromium deficiency is universal today and becomes worse with age. We are witnessing an epidemic of related to chromium deficiency ailments including diabetes, hypoglycaemia, elevated cholesterol, fatigue, and sugar cravings.”
WHY CHROMIUM IS SO IMPORTANT FOR DIABETICS?
Chromium is a part of so-called Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) and as such it helps insulin to attach to the cellular insulin receptors and be more effective in opening the door for sugar. As a result, more sugar is transferred from the blood into cells, thus lowering its blood levels.
Scientific studies repeatedly confirmed that Chromium supplementation helps reduce insulin resistance and blood sugar levels. For instance, according to a 2006 study, “Chromium & Biotin supplementation improves glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
Due to soil depletion, poor nutritional habits, refined high in sugar diet, most people do not get enough chromium in their regular diet. For this reason, using chromium supplements seems to be the most reasonable way to go.
Bio-Chromium (chromium-enriched yeast) also claims to be a very good chromium supplement as far as absorption and bioavailability is concerned.
Chromium comes in several different forms. Chromium picolinate is the form, which is regarded as the most bioavailable.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) increases the absorption of chromium.
BIOAVAILABILITY OF VARIOUS CHROMIUM COMPOUNDS
- Dietary chromium: Consists of a blend of organic and inorganic chromium compounds. Surprisingly, the bio-availability of dietary chromium is only 0.5 to 3%.
- Chromium yeast: Organic, trivalent chromium. Manufacturers of this type of supplemental chromium claim its 10 times higher bioavailability than that of other forms of chromium.
- Chromium picolinate: A synthetically manufactured, organic chromium compound that is frequently used in food supplements. It is lipid-soluble which, in theory, should make it less bio-available than water-soluble chromium compounds. Bio-availability of chromium picolinate is around 2%. Studies produced conflicting results with regard to safety.
- Chromium chloride: An inorganic chromium compound with bio-availability of 0.1 – 2 %.
- Chromium nicotinate (chromium polynicotinate): Organic chromium compound with bio-availability of 0.5 – 2%.
MANUFACTURING PROCESS OF CHROMIUM YEAST
- Live yeast cells are fed with inorganic chromium chloride
- Chromium is incorporated and integrated into the cell walls of the yeast cells, making it a part of its proteins. Thereby the chromium chloride is converted to natural, organic chromium yeast.
- The chromium yeast is pasteurized, killing the yeast cells
- The chromium-rich yeast cells are cleansed, spray-dried, pulverized, and pressed into tablets.
- When ingested, the chromium-rich proteins in the yeast are broken down to chromium-rich peptides and amino acids in the intestine
- Chromium peptides and amino acids can easily pass through the intestinal wall (which is not the case with chromium chloride and chromium picolinate that are primarily absorbed by means of passive diffusion). (source >)
DOES CHROMIUM YEAST CONTRIBUTES TO CANDIDA
Candida albicans is the name of a yeast fungus that naturally inhabits the intestinal system of 80% of the population without causing any harm. When it overgrows, it causes candidiasis which may happen as a result of a diet high in refined products such as sugar, high blood sugar levels, and antibiotic therapy that is known to kill off the gut bacteria that normally control levels of Candida.
Unfortunately, many avoid the use of yeast products (including chromium yeast or brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast) because they believe they may cause candidiasis. However, there is no reason for this, as yeast products and supplements contain only inactive yeasts which do not cause Candida albicans overgrowth. Yeast derived chromium may even benefit people with candidiasis by stabilizing their blood sugar, which contributes to Candida overgrowth. Chromium yeast does not contain live yeast cells but only chromium-enriched protein powder made from yeast. Only individuals who are allergic to yeast may experience a problem with chromium yeast.
IS CHROMIUM PICOLINATE HARMFUL?
In a 1995 study, researchers added high concentrations of chromium picolinate, chromium chloride or chromium nicotinate to hamster cells in culture and found that only chromium picolinate could damage the genetic material of the hamster cells. However, there is no evidence of DNA damage from trivalent chromium in humans. Critics say that the scientists used unrealistically high doses and that administering chromium to cells in test tubes is not the same as taking chromium supplements orally. (source >)
Supplemental chromium picolinate, like chromium chloride and other supplemental forms, is also trivalent chromium, which is safe. There was a study (on fruit flies) which suggested that higher dosage of chromium picolinate may cause some DNA damage but later on a human study proved 400mcg was safe:
“A study was published to assess the toxicity of Cr(III) picolinate on humans. The researchers administered ten women with 400 μg of chromium(III) picolinate a day for an eight-week period. The results of the study suggested that chromium(III) picolinate itself does not cause significant chromosomal damage in vivo. Generally speaking, it has been shown that chromium(III) picolinate is not toxic to humans. For most adults, it can be taken orally in doses up 1000 μg per day. In 2004, the UK Food Standards Agency advised consumers to use other forms of trivalent chromium in preference to chromium(III) picolinate until specialist advice was received from the Committee on Mutagenicity. In December 2004, the Committee on Mutagenicity published its findings, which concluded that ‘chromium(III) picolinate should be regarded as not being mutagenic in vitro‘ and that ‘the available in-vivo tests in mammals with chromium(III) picolinate are negative’. Following these findings, the UK Food Standards Agency withdrew its advice to avoid chromium(III) picolinate“. (source>)
VITAMIN C TO IMPROVE ABSORPTION
– Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) increases the absorption of chromium.
RECOMMENDED DAILY INTAKE OF CHROMIUM
– Infants 0 to 6 months: 0.2 micrograms
– Children 7 to 12 months: 5 micrograms
– Children 1 to 3 years: 10 micrograms
– Children 4 to 8 years: 15 micrograms
– Children 9 to 13 years: 20-25 micrograms
– Teenagers 14 to 18 years: 25-35 micrograms
– Adults 19 to 50 years: 35 micrograms for men, 25 micrograms for women
– Pregnant Women: 30 micrograms
– Breastfeeding Women: 35 micrograms
UPPER SAFE LIMIT
WHO considered that supplementation of chromium should not exceed 250 μg/day (WHO, 1996). According to the 2010 EU document, the safer upper limit for supplemental chromium is 250mcg (>) (the same as WHO). However, the 2018 document states there is no upper safe limit for chromium (>).
No adverse side effects were reported in a number of supplementation trials, in which subjects received up to 1 mg chromium/day, mostly as picolinate for several months. However, the limited data from studies on subchronic, chronic, and reproductive toxicity on soluble trivalent chromium salts and the available human data do not give clear information on the dose-response relationship. Therefore, a tolerable upper intake level can not be derived.
The UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EGVM) also concluded that overall there are insufficient data from human and animals studies to derive a safe upper level for chromium. However, in the opinion of the EGVM, a total daily intake of about 0.15 mg trivalent chromium per kg body weight and day (or 10 mg/person) would be expected to be without adverse health effects. This guidance level applies only to trivalent (see below explanation) chromium and not to chromium picolinate which is explicitly excluded from the guidance due to the in-vitro studies, which indicated that it may damage DNA.
The US Food and Nutrition Board also concluded that the data from animal and human studies are insufficient to establish safe upper limit for soluble chromium (III) salts (FNB, 2001).
TRIVALENT VS HEXAVALENT CHROMIUM
Chromium, as trivalent (+3) chromium, is a trace element that is naturally present in many foods and available as a dietary supplement.
Chromium also exists as divalent and hexavalent (+6) chromium, but these forms are toxic and obviously are not allowed to be used in nutritional supplements. Hexavalent chromium is a toxic by-product of stainless steel and other manufacturing processes [>, >].
All approved chromium supplements contain trivalent chromium.
The various chromium forms can bind with a variety of chemical compounds to form other substances.
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SOURCES AND REFERENCES
– Dr. Lawrence Wilson (2016) Chromium – the Blood Sugar Element
– Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes Metab 2000 Feb;26(1):22-7. 2000. PMID:15190.
– Cefalu WT, Wang ZQ, Zhang XH et al. Oral chromium picolinate improves carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and enhances skeletal muscle Glut-4 translocation in obese, hyperinsulinemic (JCR-LA corpulent) rats. J Nutr 2002 Jun;132(6):1107-14. 2002.
– Groff JL, Gropper SS, Hunt SM. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. West Publishing Company, New York, 1995. 1995.
– Singer, G.M., Geohas, J. (2006). The effect of chromium picolinate and biotin supplementation on glycemic control in poorly controlled patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Tech. Ther. Dec; 8(6): 636-43.
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© 2016 Slawomir Gromadzki – All Rights Reserved