Chromium

Chromium is an essential mineral that is important in carbohydrate metabolism. Chromium is an active component of GTF (glucose tolerance factor) and has beneficial effects on blood sugar control mechanisms. The mineral assists in the metabolism of glucose and the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol by stimulating the enzymes involved in these processes.

Chromium helps regulate blood sugar levels by collaborating with insulin in facilitating the uptake of glucose into the cells. If chromium is not present, insulin’s action is blocked and blood sugar levels are elevated. Insulin is secreted in response to the rise in blood glucose levels after the consumption of a meal. Insulin functions by increasing the rate that glucose is taken up by the cells and the lowers blood glucose levels. Chromium is essential to proper insulin action and increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Through this mechanism, insulin improves blood sugar control and possibly facilitates weight loss.

Chromium is difficult to store and only about 3% of dietary chromium is retained in the body. Chromium is primarily stored in the spleen, kidneys, and testes with smaller amounts in the heart, pancreas, lungs, and brain. Excretion of the mineral occurs mainly through urination and the amount stored in the body decreases with age. On average, the human body contains 600mcg of chromium with the highest concentration occurring during infancy.

Chromium supplementation is primarily used in hypoglycemia and diabetes (conditions of impaired glucose tolerance). The mineral is used to reduce elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and promote weight loss. Chromium supplementation may also be beneficial in the treatment of acne.

 


Chromium can help with the following

Circulation  

Atherosclerosis

Dosage: 200mcg/day. Often deficient in atherosclerosis, supplementation may result in plaque regression.



Hormones  

Elevated Insulin Levels

Chromium picolinate supplementation at 1,000mcg per day over a 13-week period combined with exercise decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and insulin levels in a recent small study of both males and females. [J Nutr Biochem, 1998;9: pp.471-475]



Lab Values  


 

Elevated Total Cholesterol

Chromium picolinate supplementation at 1,000mcg per day over a 13-week period combined with exercise decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and insulin levels in a recent small study of both males and females. [J Nutr Biochem, 1998;9: pp.471-475]



Mental  

Depression

Dysthymic disorder is a relatively common illness that is often treated with antidepressants. Compared with the study of major depression, there has been little systematic study of potentiation strategies for antidepressant-refractory dysthymic disorder. METHOD: Following a patient’s report of dramatic response to the addition of chromium supplementation to sertraline pharmacotherapy for dysthymic disorder (DSM-IV), the authors initiated a series of single-blind and open-label trials of chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate in the treatment of antidepressant-refractory dysthymic disorder. RESULTS: In a series of 5 patients, chromium supplementation led to remission of dysthymic symptoms. Single-blind substitution of other dietary supplements in each of the patients demonstrated specificity of response to chromium supplementation. CONCLUSION: Preliminary observations suggest that chromium may potentiate antidepressant pharmacotherapy for dysthymic disorder. Controlled studies are indicated to test the validity of these initial observations. [J Clin Psychiatry. 1999 Apr;60(4): pp.237-40]

In a separate study, fifteen patients (aged 18-65 years) with major depression, atypical subtype, who had been off of psychotropic medication for 7-30 days, were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, in a 2:1 ratio, chromium picolinate (n = 10) or placebo (n = 5) for eight weeks. The dose was 400 mcg/day for the first two weeks, then 600 mcg/day, of elemental chromium (the dose was clarified in personal correspondence, Connor KM, 3/19/03). A response to treatment was defined as a decrease of at least 66% on a modified version of the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), along with a marked improvement in the Clinical Global Impressions of Improvement Scale (CGI-I; i.e., a score of 1).

Remission was defined as a final HAM-D score of less than 8. The response rates were 70% (7 of 10) in the chromium group and 0% (0 of 5) in the placebo group (p = 0.02). The remission rates were 60% in the chromium group and 0% (0 of 5) in the placebo group (p = 0.04). Compared with baseline, the mean HAM-D score decreased (improved) by 59% in the chromium group and by 36% in the placebo group (p = 0.11 for difference between groups).

Comment: Atypical depression constitutes more than 20% of all cases of depression in a typical clinic population. It is characterized by mood reactivity, increased appetite and weight gain, excessive sleepiness, leaden paralysis, and sensitivity to interpersonal rejection. Atypical depression is associated with greater chronicity and disability and more suicidal ideation than are other forms of depression. Conventional treatment consists primarily of monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Although it is a more serious condition than dysthymia (described above), atypical depression is similar to it in some ways, and might therefore conceivably be related to blood-glucose dysregulation. The beneficial effect of chromium picolinate in the treatment of atypical depression may be related to its ability to improve glucose metabolism. Another study has shown that chromium picolinate supplementation causes postsynaptic downregulation of 5HT2A (serotonergic) receptors, an effect which might also account for its antidepressant activity. [Davidson JRT, et al. Effectiveness of chromium in atypical depression: a placebo-controlled trial. Biol Psychiatry 2003;53:261-264.]



Metabolic  

Hypoglycemia

Chromium status should be optimized for its benefit in carbohydrate disorders (both hypoglycemia and adult-onset diabetes). Studies have shown that chromium supplementation is helpful with hypoglycemia and can improve glucose tolerance test results and increase the number of insulin receptors on red blood cells.

A research team, which included scientists from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., tested chromium’s effects in humans by adding chromium chloride to the diet of 17 men and women, eight of whom had mild glucose intolerance, a condition that precedes diabetes.

During the 14-week study, all participants ate a baseline, chromium-poor diet containing less than 20 micrograms of the metal per day. This is similar to the amount consumed by 25 percent of Americans, Anderson says, noting that the recommended daily allowance ranges from 50 to 200 micrograms.

After four weeks, the researchers divided the volunteers into two groups. One group continued to eat the low-chromium diet, supplemented with daily doses of 200 micrograms of chromium; the other group stayed on the diet but received only placebo pills. Five weeks later, the groups were switched.

In seven of the eight people with glucose intolerance, tests taken an hour after they drank a sugary liquid showed that blood sugar levels rose nearly 50 percent less during chromium supplemention than at the outset of the study or during the unsupplemented baseline diet. In the 11 glucose-tolerant patients, the varying consumption of chromium had no effect on blood glucose levels

, Anderson notes. This selective reduction, he says, indicates “chromium can reverse glucose intolerance.”

Glucose-intolerant participants also showed lower circulating levels of insulin and glucagon

— a pancreas-secreted compound that opposes insulin’s action — during chromium supplementation than at any other point in the study.



 


 

Problem Caused By Being Overweight

A 3-month double-blind study of 122 moderately overweight people found that 400mcg of chromium daily resulted in an average loss of 6.2 pounds (2.8kg) of body fat, as opposed to 3.4 pounds (1.5kg) in the placebo group. There was no loss of lean body mass. These results suggest that chromium can help you lose fat without losing muscle.

However, six smaller double-blind placebo-controlled studies found chromium picolinate supplements produced no weight loss or change in lean body mass. These conflicting results may be due to differences in study size, the dosage of chromium, and the individuals enrolled. Overall, chromium does appear to be promising.



 


Nutrients  


 

Tryptophan Need

Chromium picolinate helps to promote conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. It accomplishes this by facilitating absorption into muscle tissue of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan for access to the brain.



Organ Health  

Diabetes Type II

This is the most important micronutrient in helping to stabilize blood sugar level. Chromium affect cellular absorption and makes a more effective use of the insulin, but it does not increase the panceas’ production of insulin. It has its greatest effect on type 2 diabetes.

Chromium picolinate at 5000mcg per day over a 3 month period reduced fasting and 2-hour glucose levels as well as reducing insulin requirements in a study of 136 patients with adult-onset diabetes. [Reported at the American Diabetes Association Meeting, June 14-18, 2002. San Francisco, California]

Six months of treatment with chromium picolinate (500 or 1000mcg per day) reduced hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) and improved lipid profiles in a well-controlled study of 52 patients with type 2 diabetes and HbA1C greater than 8% despite insulin requirements of greater than 50 units/d. Chromium had no effect on insulin requirements. [Effects of chromium treatment in patients with poorly controlled, insulin-treated Type 2 diabetes mellitus. 18th International Diabetes Federation Congress, Paris, August 24-29, 2003]



 

Increased Risk of Diabetes ll

The research team, which included scientists from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., tested chromium’s effects in humans by adding chromium chloride to the diet of 17 men and women, eight of whom had mild glucose intolerance, a condition that precedes diabetes.

During the 14-week study, all participants ate a baseline, chromium-poor diet containing less than 20 micrograms of the metal per day. This is similar to the amount consumed by 25 percent of Americans, Anderson says, noting that the recommended daily allowance ranges from 50 to 200 micrograms.

After four weeks, the researchers divided the volunteers into two groups. One group continued to eat the low-chromium diet, supplemented with daily doses of 200 micrograms of chromium; the other group stayed on the diet but received only placebo pills. Five weeks later, the groups were switched.

In seven of the eight people with glucose intolerance, tests taken an hour after they drank a sugary liquid showed that blood sugar levels rose nearly 50 percent less during chromium supplemention than at the outset of the study or during the unsupplemented baseline diet. In the 11 glucose-tolerant patients, the varying consumption of chromium had no effect on blood glucose levels

, Anderson notes. This selective reduction, he says, indicates “chromium can reverse glucose intolerance.”

Glucose-intolerant participants also showed lower circulating levels of insulin and glucagon

— a pancreas-secreted compound that opposes insulin’s action — during chromium supplementation than at any other point in the study.



Skin-Hair-Nails  

Adult Acne

High-chromium yeast is known to improve glucose tolerance and enhance insulin sensitivity. In an uncontrolled study, chromium was reported to induce rapid improvement in patients with acne. Repeated skin biopies have shown there to be a localized glucose intolerance in most acne patients. [Ind J Derm 1977:22; pp.139-149] Since insulin treatments have improved acne, it would be suspected that chromium works by improving insulin sensitivity and helping this condition. Acne has also been called “skin diabetes”.



Uro-Genital  

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Chromium potentiates the action of insulin. In 3 women with PCOS, 1,000mcg of chromium per day for a duration of 2 months improved insulin sensitivity by 30%. [Fertil Steril. 2006;80: pp. S45-S46] In a separate study with 5 women, the improvement was 38%. [Fertil Steril. 2006;86: pp.243-246]



Key

May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended

Glossary

Chromium

Chromium is a mineral that becomes a part of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF). Chromium aids in insulin utilization and blood sugar control. By controlling blood sugar, chromium helps prevent the damage caused by glucose, which is called glycation. Chromium helps maintain normal cholesterol levels and improves high-density lipoprotein levels. Chromium is also important in building muscle and reducing obesity.

Mineral

Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Carbohydrates

The sugars and starches in food. Sugars are called simple carbohydrates and found in such foods as fruit and table sugar. Complex carbohydrates are composed of large numbers of sugar molecules joined together, and are found in grains, legumes, and vegetables like potatoes, squash, and corn.

Metabolism

The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Glucose Tolerance Factor

(GTF): A compound containing chromium that aids insulin in regulating blood sugar levels.

Glucose

A sugar that is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is commonly referred to as blood sugar. The body breaks down carbohydrates in foods into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for the muscles and the brain.

Fatty Acids

Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.

Cholesterol

A waxy, fat-like substance manufactured in the liver and found in all tissues, it facilitates the transport and absorption of fatty acids. In foods, only animal products contain cholesterol. An excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.

Enzymes

Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.

Insulin

A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver, muscles, and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood for use or storage.

Microgram

(mcg): 1/1,000 of a milligram in weight.

Hypoglycemia

A condition characterized by an abnormally low blood glucose level. Severe hypoglycemia is rare and dangerous. It can be caused by medications such as insulin (diabetics are prone to hypoglycemia), severe physical exhaustion, and some illnesses.

Diabetes Mellitus

A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.

Triglyceride

The main form of fat found in foods and the human body. Containing three fatty acids and one unit of glycerol, triglycerides are stored in adipose cells in the body, which, when broken down, release fatty acids into the blood. Triglycerides are fat storage molecules and are the major lipid component of the diet.

Acne

A chronic skin disorder due to inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous glands (secretion glands in the skin).

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