Chromium, an essential mineral, plays a vital role in the way insulin aids the body in regulating the level of blood sugar. The body does not manufacture this mineral and the daily requirement must be got from a good diet or supplements. RDA of chromium depends on the age of the individual.
Health Benefits of Chromium
The health benefits of chromium are critical for diabetic patients, elderly people and pregnant women. While most diets – especially American ones are low in chromium most people do not suffer from a deficiency.
Diabetes : The effect of chromium for type-2 diabetes has been researched in-depth for many years. Some studies have reported no effect while others have found that there are specific health benefits of chromium supplements for diabetic patients especially in reducing level of blood sugar and determining the insulin requirement of such patients. One study found that the HbA1c values, that measure long-term blood sugar level controls, were better in those who took chromium picolinate against the people who used a placebo. People who took the chromium supplement also had better levels of fasting blood sugar that measures blood sugar levels in the short term.
Another study was conducted on those who consumed a chromium-biotin combination and those who took a placebo. The group that took the chromium supplement had improved HbA1c values and better levels of fasting glucose. Pregnant women are often susceptible to contracting diabetes. They too showed improved blood sugar levels when they were on chromium supplement. It is felt that more study is needed to validate the potential benefit chromium has for diabetic patients.
Chromium helps in healthy heart : According to certain studies, chromium is said to lower blood pressure. Some studies have also found that bad (LDL) cholesterol levels can be reduced with a combination of a grape seed extract and chromium. Another study found that people on beta-blockers benefited from taking chromium for it improved their good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Obesity : Chromium is said to help in improving lean muscle and reducing body fat. Therefore, the health benefits of chromium have been popularly advertised as an excellent weight-loss tool. Other studies have found no effect especially when compared to weight-loss through a balanced diet and exercise.
Strength Training : Chromium is a popular supplement for body builders and can be found as part of a sports nutrition supplement. More studies are needed to show if chromium really promotes building of muscle mass and gaining strength.
Miscellaneous Health Benefits of Chromium
- Chromium picolinate is said to improve depression signs especially in those who suffer from atypical depression.
- The metabolism of carbohydrates and fats require chromium. This mineral helps in cholesterol synthesis and stimulates fatty acids. Both these processes are essential for brain function and many other body processes.
- Chromium is also necessary for eye health. Some studies have suggested a link between increased incidences of glaucoma and low levels of chromium in the blood.
- Chromium helps to reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women since it works to slow down rate of calcium loss from the body.
- Chromium helps with nucleic acid metabolism. Nucleic acids are critical for the body since they are DNA building blocks. DNA is the genetic material that every cell in the body is composed of.
Foods rich in Chromium
The best health benefits of chromium can be got from brewer’s yeast grown in soil that is rich in chromium. Other foods that also have good quantities of chromium include organ meats, lean meats especially if they are processed meats, different varieties of cheeses, pork kidney, cereals, molasses, whole-grain breads, bran cereals, and spices.
Chromium health benefits can also be got from mushrooms, prunes, asparagus and nuts. All processed foods other than meats, fruits and vegetables all have low levels of chromium. Some other food sources include eggs, green peppers, apples, spinach, bananas, butter and black pepper. There are many chromium supplements also available either as complete supplements like chromium-enriched yeast, chromium picolinate etc or as part of multivitamin capsules.
Precautions when taking Chromium
In general, chromium rich foods and supplements are considered to be safe. If a supplement is taken in high doses, it can result in itching, flushing and stomach irritation besides affecting the effectiveness of insulin in controlling levels of blood sugar. Those who need to be careful when taking chromium supplements are those with kidney or liver problems and anemia. Such people and even others must always consult a physician before taking chromium supplements. Those who suffer from leather contact allergies or chromate allergies could have a tendency to be allergic to chromium. Industrial chromium is toxic when compared to foods and supplements with chromium in them. Those exposed to industrial chromium must be careful.
Health benefits of chromium are many especially for those who suffer from type-2 diabetes and pregnant women who are vulnerable to contracting diabetes. Apart from this, chromium is useful as a weight loss tool, for metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, eye-health, heart health and much more. Since it is rare to take an overdose of chromium, there are no dietary regulations provided for this mineral by the FDA.