Chromium is a very elusive essential trace mineral. Researchers believe that chromium can be used to control diabetes, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and cholesterol levels. While some evidence does support these uses, more research is needed to prove that chromium is beneficial for these specific indications. We discuss what research has to say about the health benefits of taking chromium.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that occurs naturally in the environment. It comes in two different forms; the first is the trivalent, also known as CR III, which is the form found in dietary supplements. The second, hexavalent or CR VI, is considered a toxin.
There are many types of chromium, but chromium picolinate is the most common found in dietary supplements
- Chromium Picolinate – Chromium picolinate is the mineral chromium attached to three picolinate molecules
- Chromium Chloride – Add Chloride Molecule
- Chromium Histidine – Adds the amino acid l-histidine
- Chromium malate – add malic acid
- Chromium polynicotinate
- Chromium nicotinate
- Chromium Trichloride – Add Chloride Molecule
The body needs chromium to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It helps convert glucose into energy and promotes healthy blood sugar levels, which is great for those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. It has been found to enhance insulin sensitivity and overcome glucose intolerance.
Chromium has also been shown to increase lean body mass by suppressing appetite.
Insulin resistance is a prediabetic condition that precedes the onset of type 2 diabetes and offers early intervention. Although lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can help delay or reduce the onset of diabetes, compliance with these conditions is difficult for most people and requires pharmacological intervention. Most current drugs that improve insulin sensitivity are associated with adverse effects (R).
A large study published in nutrition magazine which included more than 62,000 participants, found that those who supplemented with chromium had a 27 percent lower risk of developing diabetes (R).
Therefore, studies have shown that taking chromium supplements can benefit people with diabetes by improving their blood sugar. (R).
Recent research has investigated the role of chromium picolinate in the treatment of depression. One of the proposed mechanisms or theories of action is that chromium makes cells more sensitive to insulin. Increased sensitivity is thought to transport an amino acid called tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system.
Tryptophan is converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which regulates mood.
Patients with atypical depression showed a significantly positive treatment response to chromium picolinate in a small pilot trial.
One hundred and thirty adult outpatients with atypical depression were randomized 2:1 to receive 600 cups/day of elemental chromium, provided by chromium picolinate (CrPic), or placebo.
The results suggest that the primary role of chromium is to suppress carbohydrate cravings and appetite regulation in depressed patients, and that 600 cups of elemental chromium may be beneficial in atypically depressed patients who also have severe carbohydrate cravings (R).
Low chromium levels are associated with those at risk for cardiovascular events (R). Having said that, chromium deficiencies are found in diets rich in refined foods, which can lead to many diseases, metabolic dysfunction, and various health problems. Additionally, chromium loss has been observed during prolonged stress such as pregnancy, infection, physical trauma, and strenuous exercise.
Those at increased risk of cardiovascular disease were also associated with increased physical stress and lifestyle factors. Evidence suggests that supplementation with chromium picolinate may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (R).
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder. Women with PCOS may have irregular menstrual cycles and elevated androgen levels. While the exact cause is unknown, you can manage PCOS with PCOS-specific supplements to reduce symptoms and lower your risk of diabetes.
Researchers claim excess insulin may be an underlying cause of PCOS. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows your body to regulate sugar and use it for energy. If you become resistant to insulin, your blood sugar levels rise and your body responds by producing more insulin. Excess insulin may increase androgen production, making ovulation difficult. Evidence also suggests that PCOS may be hereditary.
A systematic review examined the effect of chromium supplementation on insulin resistance in women with PCOS. Five RCTs were included in the search criteria, showing no significant difference in fasting insulin between chromium and placebo. However, two of the studies did show differences between the chromium and placebo groups. Clinical relevance was determined to be uncertain, and more studies are needed to confirm the results (R).
Another systematic review and meta-analysis examined seven randomized controlled trials and found that chromium supplementation had a positive effect on body mass index (BMI), fasting insulin and free testosterone concentrations in PCOS patients (R).
More evidence is needed to support the potential benefits of using chromium picolinate supplements in relation to diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders. However, studies do clearly show that chromium has a positive effect on insulin levels, metabolism of macronutrients and promoting healthy blood sugar levels.
Looking for a supplement to help you get more chromium from your diet?
Swolverine’s Multivitamin is a once-daily vegetarian capsule packed with vitamins and minerals to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal health. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are essential for our cells to perform various biological tasks. Multivitamins contain the best types of essential micronutrients to maximize absorption and replenish the key ingredients your body needs in an easy-to-take capsule.
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