Diabetes and Weight Management, Chromium the Essential Nutrient.

Diabetes and Weight Management, Chromium the Essential Nutrient.

Much like Selenium, Copper, Manganese and Zinc, Chromium is a trace mineral found in minute quantities in the body. ‘Trace’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t important, it simply means there isn't a lot of it.

There are many therapeutic properties to this element including blood glucose control, lipid metabolism, protein metabolism and weight management.

What is Chromium?

It is the 24th element of the periodic table found in two forms, trivalent, written as Cr3+ or hexavalent, written as Cr6+[1]. The trivalent form is the only one found within the body as the hexavalent form is highly carcinogenic. Furthermore, the trivalent form is incredibly useful in sugar metabolism and controlling fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations. The pure form of the metal is a vibrant silver with a high degree of shine. The name is thought to come from the Greek word ‘Chroma’ meaning colour. This is because when Chromium is reacted in a compound it displays as an array of colours [3].

Let us explore the history...

It’s thought that Chromium has been used in the production of weapons since the 3rd century during the Qin Dynasty. Upon first discovered it wasn’t associated with the new element, but instead one that had already been discovered, Lead. In 1761, a compound of Lead chromate was discovered, which is a shocking red crystalline structure that was traditionally used as a pigment, despite its toxicity. Finally, in 1798, the pure metal was isolated by heating what we now call Chromium trioxide. The genius behind this idea was scientist Vaquelin. Since that point, Chromium is now frequently used for structural components in such as in electroplating [2,3]. According to recent statistics, 90% of the Chromium ore mined per year is used in electroplating, and 7% goes into making chemicals and dietary supplements [4].

What are its food sources and how much to we need?

It is abundant in many foods but in very small amounts (Micrograms, Mcg), it is found in the following foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Grapes
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Turkey
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Wholemeal flour [1]

There are no official recommendations for how much Chromium should be consumed in the diet, however, some studies have shown that you are recommended to take in the following.

Gender Age (years) Daily Requirement mcg/day
Male 9-13 25
14+ 35
Female 9-13 21
14+ 25
Pregnant 30
Lactating 45

Table 1: Unofficial  Recommendations [5]

There has been very little evidence to support the idea that there are clinical symptoms of deficiency, this may because Chromium is found in almost all foods. Although there is only one piece of evidence to support that the elderly may need higher levels of Chromium because in clinical trials lower levels of chromium were found in the hair, sweat and blood samples of elderly patients, demonstrating they may be at greater risk of deficiency.

What are its health properties?

Controlling Blood Glucose Concentrations

Chromium has been scientifically proven to have a great effect on the fluctuations of blood glucose in the human body, and significant benefits to diabetic patients. Once it has been absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract it helps to form the organic complex ‘Glucose Tolerance Factor’ or ‘GTF’, this is the physiological version known as Chromodulin. The role GTF is thought to work alongside the hormone Insulin to reduce blood glucose and the biological burden on the pancreas. It does so by binding to the site of an insulin receptor. Then when Insulin binds it elevates its signal and encourages greater effect. Additionally, it increases cell glucose storage thus reduces the symptoms of diabetes such as lethargy and fatigue. Althoug the current use of Chromium in supplement form is inconclusive it is thought that its use may lead to a reduction in diabetes or glucose intolerant symptoms [1,6].

Lipid metabolism and Body Weight Management.

As previously mentioned Chromium is required for the metabolism of not only glucose but lipids too. Although, this subject needs more scientific backing it is thought it can keep blood lipid concentrations within optimal ranges. High levels of Low density lipoproteins (LDL) can be very damaging to the body causing diseases such as atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. Typically, high doses of Chromium have been shown to reduce LDL concentration in the blood and make way for high density lipoproteins (HDLs) that are beneficial to health [1].

Bone health in Post-menopausal women.

This research dates all the way back to 1995 and since then it is yet to confirm its nutritional claim. One study found that taking Chromium Picolinate (a supplement form) reduced the urinary excretion of bone breakdown products (Hydroxyproline and Calcium). This indicates that through some mechanism yet unknown, Chromium reduces the activity of Osteoclasts. Osteoclasts are the cells that disassemble bone for regeneration, this happens at an accelerated rate in Menopausal women due to the loss of the hormone Oestrogen. Chromium Picolinate is yet to achieve this claim, however evidence has shown it to be a very useful supplement in menopausal women [7].

How to take a Supplemental Form?

You are advised to take between 500mcg and 1000mcg of Chromium (picolinate) in multiple doses throughout the day this way it can aid the natural fluctuations of macronutrients, lipids, proteins and carbohydrates that occur during and between meal times [8].

  1. NIH. (2013). Chromium. Available: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/.
  2. Gagnon,S. (2016). THe Element Chromium. Available: http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele024.html.
  3. Winter,M. (2013). Chromium: Historical information . Available: https://www.webelements.com/chromium/history.html. Last
  4. Health Protection Agency . (2015). Chromium General Information. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338691/Chromium_info_incid_mgment_tox.pdf.
  5. Wax,E. (2015). Chromium in the diet. Available: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002418.htm.
  6. Wilbur.S, et-al. (2012). Toxicological Profile of Chromium. Available: Wax,E. (2015). Chromium in the diet. Available: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002418.htm.
  7. McCarty, MF. (1995). Anabolic effects of insulin on bone suggest a role for chromium picolinate in preservation of bone density.. Medical Hypotheses. 45 (3), Pg. 241-246.
  8. Examine. (2016). Chromium. Available: https://examine.com/supplements/chromium/.
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