Chromium: What Is It?
Chromium is a relatively new mineral in terms of our understanding of the role it plays in nutrition.It was not until 1957 that Mertz and Schwartz isolated a compound that they called the "glucose tolerance factor" (GTF). This was shown to restore the ability of rats with impaired sugar metabolism to utilize glucose. In 1959, chromium was identified as the active component of GTF. Because of its role in regulating blood sugar, chromium supplementation is useful in a number of conditions.
What foods provide chromium?
Chromium is widely distributed in the food supply, but most foods provide only small amounts (less than 2 micrograms [mcg] per serving). Meat and whole-grain products, as well as some fruits, vegetables, and spices are relatively good sources . In contrast, foods high in simple sugars (like sucrose and fructose) are low in chromium .
Dietary intakes of chromium cannot be reliably determined because the content of the mineral in foods is substantially affected by agricultural and manufacturing processes and perhaps by contamination with chromium when the foods are analyzed .
Benefits of Chromium
Blood sugar balance-
chromium helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, a function which not only helps diabetics but also those with pre-diabetic glucose intolerance and hypoglycaemia (too low blood glucose).
- chromium appears to play a role in reducing the bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides whilst raising the level of good HDL cholesterol.
- studies have demonstrated weight loss with increased chromium intake. Chromium increases sensitivity to insulin, improving blood sugar control and encourgaing the body to use calories to generate heat. Preliminary studies have shown that taking chromium picolinate can result in increased fat and weight loss and gain in lean muscle.
- chromium compounds are required both to build muscle cells and for the muscle cells to absorb glucose during exercise. Because of the extra demands of glucose absorption during exercisemore of the appropriate chromium compound becomes damaged. This is broken down and excreted by the body. The result is a greater loss of chromium at a time when the body requires more than normal.
although people suffering from acne have normal oral glucose tolerance, skin tests have revealed that glusoce tolerance in the skin is impaired. Rapid improvement in the condition has been noticed in people taking chromium supplements.
What affects chromium levels in the body?
Absorption of chromium from the intestinal tract is low, ranging from less than 0.4% to 2.5% of the amount consumed , and the remainder is excreted in the feces . Enhancing the mineral's absorption are vitamin C (found in fruits and vegetables and their juices) and the B vitamin niacin (found in meats, poultry, fish, and grain products). Absorbed chromium is stored in the liver, spleen, soft tissue, and bone .
The body's chromium content may be reduced under several conditions. Diets high in simple sugars (comprising more than 35% of calories) can increase chromium excretion in the urine. Infection, acute exercise, pregnancy and lactation, and stressful states (such as physical trauma) increase chromium losses and can lead to deficiency, especially if chromium intakes are already low.
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