Chromium - The Evidence

  • 1 Jan 2008
  • Reading time 5 mins
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Chromium is a non-toxic mineral, essential for carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. Despite being naturally present in foods such as beer, whole grains, cheese, liver, and meat, the typical intake in a western diet is much lower than the recommended daily requirement of 50-200µg/day (micrograms per day). The average intake is thought to be in the region of 28-35µg. In addition to the problem of low consumption due to eating refined and processed foods (white flour has 98% of its chromium removed), it has been shown that typical western diets high in refined food such as white bread, cakes, sweets and biscuits increase chromium losses because it is used up in processing sugar.

What Chromium Does

Chromium’s role in insulin regulation was first proven in the 1970s. We now know that the essential mineral increases insulin binding, increases the number of insulin receptors and also increases insulin effectiveness; all of which lead to improved glucose transport into muscle, fat and liver tissue, and therefore better glucose control.

The Evidence for Chromium Reversing Diabetes

Studies have shown that low Chromium status is associated with an increased prevalence of Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, and subsequent research suggests that chromium may be able to restore blood-sugar balance in diabetics.

A 2007 review of over 40 randomized controlled trials found that giving Type 2 diabetics chromium improves their fasting blood sugar levels and also decreases glycosylated haemoglobin levels (another measure of poor sugar control). The study, published in Diabetes Care, found that the best effects were seen with chromium picolinate (which is much better absorbed than cheaper forms of inorganic chromium, such as chromium chloride) in doses of 400-1000mcg per day. (1) Despite being more than eight times the current recommended daily allowance, there are no known side effects at levels of up to 100 times greater than this.

A landmark study in 1997, looked at 120 Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes, 60 of whom were given 200ug chromium per day and 60 of whom were given 1000ug/day. After just 2 months, significant improvements were seen in glucose control, in both groups. After 4 months, there was almost a 30% reduction in glucose levels in the higher dosage group(2).

A larger study in 1999 followed over 800 diabetics who were taking insulin or anti-hyperglycemic drugs(3). The patients were given 500ug chromium per day for 9 months, and after just 1 month, fasting and post-meal glucose levels had significantly fallen. At the end of the 9 months, 90% of patients reported a decrease in fatigue, thirst and the need for frequent urination.

A double-blind placebo-controlled study in 2008 randomly assigned 42 overweight adult women with carbohydrate cravings to receive chromium or placebo for 8 weeks. Chromium, as compared to placebo, reduced food intake, hunger levels, and fat cravings and decreased body weight.(4)

The time taken for the effects of chromium supplementation to be seen is not so clear, although a study of elderly patients with T2D reported decreased fasting glucose levels after just three ......

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