What is chromium and how can it help my health?
Chromium is an essential mineral that the body needs but only in trace amounts. It’s required for various functions including helping maintain normal glucose metabolism and influencing protein and fat metabolism. Chromium’s effect on blood sugar metabolism is due to its ability to improve the action of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas in response to increased blood glucose levels, such as after a meal. Insulin moves glucose into cells for metabolism.
The main role of insulin is to stimulate the uptake of glucose into the body’s cells to be used as energy and to maintain normal levels of glucose in the blood. Insulin is also critical for the metabolism and storage of fat and protein in the body.1
Because of its role in promoting the action of insulin, chromium may help maintain normal blood sugar levels and assist in the management of fluctuating blood sugar levels in healthy people.
Who may need extra chromium?
Healthy women over the age of 19 require 25mcg of chromium a day, whereas men need around 35mcg.2 These amounts can usually be obtained through a well‐balanced diet or topped up with a supplement such as a multivitamin.
Some people may require higher amounts of chromium to meet their daily needs. For example, people with a high dietary intake of refined (high simple sugar/processed) foods need more chromium as these types of foods tend to be low in chromium and may enhance chromium losses from the body. This effect may be related to increased insulin secretion in response to the consumption of simple sugars.3
The body’s chromium content may also be affected by pregnancy, strenuous exercise, physical trauma and stress, therefore a person with any of these conditions may have higher than usual daily requirements. In addition, the elderly may experience chromium shortfalls and have greater chromium needs than younger adults.
Which foods provide chromium?
The mineral chromium is widely distributed through the food supply but most foods only provide small amounts, often less than 2mcg per serve.1 Chromium can be found in meat such as turkey, whole grain products, some fruits and vegetables such as apples, broccoli and potatoes as well as garlic and basil. The content of chromium in food is however dependent on agricultural and manufacturing processes.1 Compared to complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, foods high in refined carbohydrates are typically low in chromium. The absorption of chromium appears to be enhanced by vitamin C,2 which is found in many fruits and vegetables as well as vitamin B3 from meat, poultry, fish and whole grains.1
How else can I get the chromium my body needs?
If you wish to maintain healthy blood glucose levels or if you have higher daily chromium requirements due to increased age, daily stress, a poor diet or if you regularly exercise strenuously, then a chromium supplement may be recommended. Chromium is often available as part of a comprehensive multivitamin or as a high strength single ingredient, to help manage fluctuating blood sugar levels and ensure your daily needs are met.
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Published February 26, 2015
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