Chromium is a trace mineral found in abundance in liver, yeast, grains, chicken and brewer’s yeast. There is no established RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) however the Adequate Intake Value for chromium in the UK is 35mcg for males and 25mcg for females.
Chromium works with insulin to process and utilise glucose. It is believed to aid growth, help prevent and lower high blood pressure and work as a deterrent for diabetes. It has been shown to help support the maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations and contribute to normal macronutrient metabolism.
The primary sign of chromium deficiency is glucose intolerance characterised by raised blood sugar and insulin levels.
Diabetes-There has been a growing area of interest of the importance of chromium in its role in glucose intolerance and diabetes. Chromium deficiency impairs the body’s ability to use glucose to meet its energy needs and raises insulin requirements. It has therefore been suggested that chromium supplements might help to control type 2 diabetes or the glucose and insulin responses in persons at high risk of developing the disease. (1).
Cholesterol– Many studies also report chromium supplementation may have a positive effect on the levels of fat in the blood. These studies have shown a decrease in total and low density lipo-protein (LDL) cholesterol and increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in those with atherosclerosis or among those taking a beta blocker drug (2), (3), (4).
Weight loss– The role of chromium in relation to body composition and weight loss has also been the subject of much research. A review of randomized, controlled clinical trials found that supplements of chromium picolinate was successful in helping with weight loss when compared with placebos (5).
Muscle growth and tone– Chromium contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism. This means that it is important for the process involving the breakdown and usage of the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fats. Protein, in particular contributes to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass and so chromium will assist in these processes.
Sweet cravings– Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. When these levels fall, the body responds by triggering the desire to consume sweet foods. People refer to this effect as ‘sugar cravings’ or ‘sweet tooth’’. This action of chromium may help to prevent such feelings by helping to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
Balanced Energy levels– Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. Blood sugar is used by the body as a source of energy, so it stands to reason that if chromium contributes to its maintenance, that will result in better regulation of energy levels. People often talk about an ‘energy slump’ or ‘trough’ not long after eating sweet foods and it is changes in blood sugar that may contribute to these feelings.
Weight management- research suggests that chromium may help increase fat loss and lean muscle gain in conjunction with weight training.
Chromium is considered extremely safe and is not associated with any adverse effects and for this reason no Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been established.