Trace Minerals: Chromium

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broccoli2The next trace mineral in our series from A to Zinc is chromium. Chromium is an essential micronutrient or trace mineral required for proper insulin function, healthy blood-sugar levels, and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.

The typical North American diet is deficient in chromium because of over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and refined sugars that are lacking in chromium. Soil depletion is also playing a role in chromium deficiency.

Because chromium deficiency leads to poor insulin utilization and metabolism, researchers have found that this deficiency may be an underlying contributing factor to the tremendous number of North Americans that suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypoglycemia.

The rise in obesity has led to a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects over 30 million Americans, almost 10% of the population; type 2 diabetes accounts for 95% of all diabetic cases. And there are 1.5 million more Americans  diagnosed with diabetes every year. Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that makes blood sugar available to the cells as our basic fuel, or when the body does not effectively use the insulin provided (insulin resistance).

Treatment for type 2 diabetes should focus on tight blood-sugar control, achieved through dietary and lifestyle changes. An herbal and nutritional supplement may help increase the production of insulin from the pancreas and make the cells more sensitive to insulin so the body can use it appropriately.

Chromium picolinate is the most popular form of supplemental chromium. Picolinate, a byproduct of the amino acid tryptophan, is paired with chromium in supplements because it may help the body absorb chromium more efficiently. Chromium is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, and it helps cells respond properly to insulin; however, the exact mechanisms by which chromium improves this insulin efficiency are currently unclear.

Some research has shown that without chromium, insulin’s actions may be blocked and glucose levels elevated. Many people suffering from type 2 diabetes also have elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which chromium has shown to be effective at lowering.

Good food sources of chromium include carrots, potatoes, broccoli, whole-grain products and molasses. Supplementing with chromium has been shown to produce improvements in glucose control. Between 200 and 400 mcg of chromium picolinate is recommended for those with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.

Chromium may be a good choice for those health-conscious consumers who are trying to maintain healthy insulin function. Normal insulin function is key to healthy blood-sugar levels, and both are important in achieving optimum physical and mental health. Please consult with a health care practitioner before taking any supplement.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023