Chromium: An Essential Trace Mineral
Did you know our bodies need over 30 essential nutrients to function? Out of these 30 nutrients, chromium is one of the lesser-known trace minerals (like selenium) that our body requires, but only in trace amounts.
What is Chromium?
There are two types of chromium: trivalent chromium (which is safe for consumption) and hexavalent chromium (a toxic by-product of stainless steel and other manufacturing processes). In this article, we will be focusing on trivalent chromium which comes in a variety of forms, including those found in food and dietary supplements.
Chromium is used by our bodies to regulate the metabolism of glucose, lipid, and protein, as well as to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Although our bodies only require it in small amounts, most people are not getting enough of the nutrient in their diets. The estimated safe and adequate amount of daily dietary intake is assessed to be between 50 to 200 micrograms. However, most people only get around 60% of the recommended minimum consumption of 50 micrograms in their diet.
When our bodies don’t have enough chromium, it can lead to several health issues; including weight loss, impaired glucose tolerance, neuropathy, anxiety and muscular weakness – all of which mimic signs of diabetes.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin C both aid in chromium absorption.
Sources of Chromium
Since our bodies are unable to produce chromium, the only way to obtain chromium is through our diet; be it via food or dietary supplements.
Small levels of chromium may be found in a variety of foods. However, chromium concentration varies even within the same food categories, most likely due to mineral changes in the soil when these foods were cultivated. For example, the chromium concentration in two samples of oatmeal can vary by 50-fold because of variances in growing and processing.
Here are some food sources that contain chromium:
- High-fiber bran cereals
- Whole grains
- Green Beans
- Brewer’s yeast
- Grape juice
- English Muffins
Health Benefits of Chromium
The main role of chromium in our bodies is to aid in the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates.
Chromium is essential for appropriate insulin activity in food metabolism. Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose from the blood circulation to cells, where it is digested or stored. Chromium improves insulin’s activity by acting as a signal to the cells, allowing insulin to transfer glucose more efficiently within our body. If the body doesn’t have enough chromium, glucose doesn’t get properly transported into our cells which can lead to high blood glucose levels.
According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, it was discovered that people who took chromium-containing supplements had a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Another study conducted by the Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand also discovered that chromium supplementation induces positive effects on blood sugar management in diabetics while also lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein, the “good” type of cholesterol). High levels of triglycerides in our blood can increase the risk of heart diseases while high levels of HDL-Cholesterol can reduce the risk of stroke and heart diseases.
Other studies have hypothesised that chromium can help to support cardiovascular health, although further research on this topic is needed.
Although you can obtain chromium through foods like green beans and potatoes, the amount of chromium may not be sufficient due to the way it is cultivated.
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