Of all the trace minerals in our diet chromium is probably one of the most important key nutrient for the healthy regulation of blood sugars. It would appear that as our diets turn more towards processed foods and away from whole grains the levels of dietary chromium is dropping in the population. Could this change in our eating habits help explain the rising trend in late onset diabetes. Other blood sugar imbalances such as reactive hypoglycaemia are more common in those with low chromium levels and can be responsible for mood and other emotional upsets. Chromium has far reaching biological actions that that are not just related to sugar metabolism.
Classification: Trace Mineral
Origin: Most whole foods
Toxicity: Low, but insulin dependent diabetics need professional supervision if chromium is taken
Drug interactions: May interfere with injected insulin and oral diabetic medications making potential hazard in diabetics.
Food sources: Egg yolk, liver, kidney, molasses, brewers yeast, whole grains, wholemeal bread, beef, chicken (dark meat), nuts and legumes
How does chromium work?
Blood sugar control
At the heart of blood sugar control is the hormone insulin. For insulin to function correctly it must be able to bind to the cells of the body enabling them to absorb circulating sugars. Chromium acts as a go-between, allowing the hormone to dock on the cell surface and facilitate sugar uptake. A deficiency of chromium makes our bodies resistant to the actions of insulin causing imbalances in blood sugar levels that induce further insulin release in an attempt to bring the rising blood sugar level back into control. Such a rise often causes a drop in blood sugars and the characteristic ups and downs in mood and emotions. Chromium appears to have the ability to modulate blood sugar levels, smoothing out the peeks and troughs.
The Chromium-Cholesterol connection
It has long been known that high blood sugars are associated with an elevated blood cholesterol level and an increased risk of heart disease. This is one of the biggest medical complications to diabetes. However, as far back as the late 60's it was known that a deficiency of dietary chromium was associated with hardening of the arteries and a build up of cholesterol in the walls of important blood vessel such as the aorta. Although the exact mechanism is not understood it is likely that chromium's balancing effect on blood sugars has an important part to play.
Who can benefit from chromium?
When all the health benefits of this trace mineral can be weighed up, the answer is probably anyone! Chromium is a very safe mineral with a wide range of uses and a very low level of toxicity. In fact, a report published by the European Federation of Health Product Manufacturers Association states that there is "no evidence of toxicity from orally ingested trivalent (organic) chromium" and proposes that 200 µg can be safely taken over long periods of time.
Chromium is probably of most help to those who suffer from blood sugar imbalances. Women who notice that sugar cravings are a problem in the second half of the menstrual cycle are a classic example. Dosing up on chromium can make a real difference to energy and mood levels that plague PMS sufferers.
Until recently there was no guidance regarding the daily requirements (NRV / RDA) for chromium but as its importance became more established it was set at 40 micrograms per day. In the UK, the average daily intake of chromium from food has been estimated to be in the region of 100 micrograms in those eating a well-balanced diet but intakes of 200 µg daily carries no risk of side effects and is recommended in most cases with the proviso that diabetics should only take chromium under professional supervision.
Products containing 200 micrograms of chromium