Chromium has an important role to play in the human body for it helps insulin regulate levels of blood sugar in the body. In America alone, 90% of diets are deficient in chromium although there is no real deficiency in this mineral. There are some people more at risk of suffering from a chromium deficiency. Identifying them can help reverse this deficiency either through improving diet or by taking chromium supplements. Apart from diabetes, low chromium levels can increase risk of heart diseases. Brewer’s yeast has the highest source of chromium apart from foods like lean meats, cheeses, whole grain cereals and breads. Get full details of chromium rich foods here
Causes of chromium deficiency
Only about 0.4% to 2.5% of chromium is absorbed by the intestinal tract. The rest is excreted through the feces. Vitamin B and C rich foods and supplements aid in better absorption of chromium. The chromium that is thus absorbed is retained in the spleen, liver, bones and soft tissue. There are various causes of depletion of chromium from the body and these can cause chromium deficiency if the intake of this trace mineral is already low.
- Undernourished children can be deficient in chromium and display growth and developmental problems.
- A diet rich in simple sugars (> 35%) increases the quantities of chromium excreted through urine
- Strenuous exercise
- Those on IV feeding for long periods
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Physical trauma due to accidents or stress
- An examination of blood, hair levels and urine suggests that older people are more susceptible to chromium loss and therefore deficiency than younger adults are. However, since there is no specific biomarker to assess the chromium levels in a person’s body, it can be difficult to identify those who are truly deficient.
Symptoms of chromium deficiency
The food processing methods in countries like the US makes dietary chromium deficiency more widespread than it ought to be. One important symptom of chromium deficiency is resistance to insulin. This leads to hyperinsulinemia that is a condition characterized by high levels of blood glucose and insulin. Deficiency of chromium is also linked to Syndrome X a condition that represents several symptoms like:
Recommended Dosage of Chromium
- High triglycerides
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
Other deficiency symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Impaired coordination
- Being in state of confusion
- Reduced response to glucose in the blood therefore increasing the chances of contracting diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes in older people
- Protein-calorie malnutrition in infants
Chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, chromium histidinate, glucose tolerance factor chromium (GTF), high-chromium yeast and chromium chloride are some of the forms of chromium supplements available in tablet or capsule forms. It can be sold as a combination of formulas for performance enhancement or weight loss or as a single-ingredient supplement with dosage ranging from 50-200mcg. While there is no proven safe tolerable upper limit for chromium, 200mcg /day is what is normally recommended.
Precautions while taking chromium supplements
Chromium-rich foods are generally considered safe. Chromium supplements on the other hand must be taken under medical supervision especially if you are a diabetic. Chromium supplements can manage type 2 diabetes and protein-calorie malnutrition in babies but it is not an alternate for other treatment. If high doses are taken, it could affect the work of insulin in controlling blood sugar levels. It could lead to itching, stomach irritation and flushing. Some rare cases have even demonstrated liver problems and irregular heart beat from excessive chromium intake.
Kidney failure has been reported in two cases where the patients took chromium picolinate supplements. It can also cause damage to chromosomes. Some chromium supplements can cause ulcers, GI irritation and interfere with the absorption of iron. Those who suffer from schizophrenia, anxiety or depression must take chromium supplement under medical supervision for it can worsen the symptoms of these illnesses. Those with leather contact allergies or chromate allergies can develop an allergy to chromium. Others who have to be careful include those with liver problems and anemia.
Industrial chromium is toxic and can lead to various health problems. It is different from chromium-rich foods and supplements. So, if you work in factories where industrial chromium is used, then you should be careful about exposure. Exposure can lead to irritation of the nose cartilage, skin, digestive tract and lungs and sometimes causes lung cancer.
Since chromium is so important for controlling blood sugar levels and helps with storage of fat, carbohydrates and proteins and helps maintain normal metabolism rate, it is important to ensure you do not become deficient in this essential nutrient. Make sure you take the right levels of chromium supplements and eat chromium-rich foods. Ensure you follow proper precautions so that you do not suffer from elevated levels of chromium.