Chromium is an essential trace mineral that has a role in carbohydrate metabolism, the process your body uses to break down carbohydrates for energy. In addition, chromium has a supporting role in regulating blood sugar by affecting insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas that allows cells to take glucose from the bloodstream and use it as energy.
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Chromium is found naturally in many foods including, some meats, egg yolks, whole grains, Brewer’s yeast and fresh fruits and vegetables including broccoli. It is also found in hard tap water and in foods prepared using stainless-steel cookware. Without enough chromium, insulin may not work as effectively to lower blood glucose levels.
Is Chromium Good for Diabetes?
Based on the function of chromium, studies have looked at whether chromium supplements help individuals with type 2 diabetes lower their fasting blood sugar and insulin levels while enhancing the effect of insulin. There is new research that may show similar blood sugar and insulin benefits for patients with type 1 diabetes. In patients taking sulfonylureas and possibly steroids, chromium may also have a role in decreasing weight gain and fat accumulation. Chromium may also be effective in lowering the level of certain blood fats including cholesterol and triglycerides but more research is necessary.
Is Chromium Good for Weight Loss?
Some research has also suggested that chromium may improve body composition and help with weight loss and obesity but results have been mixed. In addition, chromium may have a role in athletic performance including bodybuilding, improving strength and increasing lean body mass. There are also some limited studies on the role of chromium in the treatment of depression, heart attack prevention, Turner’s syndrome (an inherited disease associated with diabetes), polycystic ovary syndrome and hypoglycemia.
People with type 2 diabetes and the elderly may be at higher risk for chromium deficiency. One study measured chromium levels in toenails of healthy men, men with type 2 diabetes and men with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They found lower chromium levels in diabetic men with heart disease than in healthy men. However, more research is needed to determine how chromium supplementation can be most beneficial for these groups.
It’s important that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding chromium supplements to your nutritional regimen. Be sure to discuss your medical history and any medications that you are currently taking, including over the counter medication and other supplements to prevent interactions or side effect. Certain medications can alter the absorption of chromium supplements. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of chromium while zinc reduces absorption. Antacids (including calcium carbonate) may also interfere with the uptake of chromium.