Know Your Nutrients: Chromium

This next post in the series which explores key nutrients that are required by our bodies to support our optimal health and wellbeing. Each nutrient will be described in terms of its role, highlighting various key benefits, including our potential for deficiency, dietary sources, and potential benefits for supplementation.

 Naturally found in many foods and as a supplement, chromium is a trace element that has a reported role in carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism by potentiating insulin action.1

  • What is chromium?
  • What are the health benefits of chromium?
  • What should I know when taking chromium?
  • Chromium products
  • Summary

What is chromium?

Chromium, one of the most common elements in nature. It exits in three forms in our environment, with trivalent chromium found in most foods and nutrient supplements, and is seen as an essential nutrient with very low toxicity.2

Meats, grain products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, brewer’s yeast, beer, and wine can all contain chromium. However, many factors can impact on the measured chromium content of an individual food. Factors such as the processing of the food, agricultural conditions, water and soil conditions have all been suggested to alter the chromium levels of foods. The dietary adsorption of chromium is also reported to be low, ranging from 2.5% to as low as 0.4%.3

What are the health benefits of chromium?

The National Institutes of Health (Office of Dietary Supplements) have summarised the current research on conditions in which chromium might have beneficial effects including impaired glucose tolerance, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), dyslipidemia, and weight and lean body mass.4

Research has been undertaken to examine if chromium might reduce the risk of impaired glucose tolerance, since it may potentiate the action of insulin. Any support for reversing impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes) is important as Diabetes UK estimates that around seven million people in the UK have pre-diabetes.5 This has implications for our risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, and stroke (cardiovascular diseases).

Regarding diabetes, studies have shown that chromium supplements in a diabetic population can improve blood sugar, improving our body’s response to insulin. Indicating that those with higher blood sugar and lower insulin sensitivity may respond to chromium supplements. Furthermore, in a large study (62,000+ adults) there was a 27% reduction in the likelihood of having diabetes in those supplementing with chromium.6

More recent data has indicated that plasma chromium levels were inversely associated with metabolic syndrome (co-occurrence of several known cardiovascular risk factors, including insulin resistance, obesity, atherogenic dyslipidemia and hypertension)7 in adults. The researchers indicated the association may be explained by the relations between plasma chromium levels and high waist circumference, and the triglycerides and blood glucose levels.8

There is also promise in the role and use of chromium to support women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Though the research results are mixed with more investigation required. One analysis (including 7 trials with 351 female participants) showed that compared to placebo, reductions in fasting insulin, body mass index (BMI), and free testosterone levels through the supplementation with chromium.9

The implications of chromium supplementation impacting on insulin and glucose intolerance has also resulted in investigations into any effects on lean body mass and body weight.  In a recent review of studies (meta-analysis: systematic assessment of previous research studies to derive conclusions about that body of research) the authors concluded that there were statistically significant reductions in body fat percentage and body weight with chromium supplementation (chromium picolinate) compared to controls. The modest reductions seen with chromium supplementation, alongside other lifestyle, and behaviours changes, can be of benefit to promote our metabolic health and wellbeing.

What should I know when taking chromium?

Three forms of chromium can be found on supplement shelves. Chromium nicotinate (chromium bound with niacin), chromium picolinate (most popular form found in supplements), and glucose tolerance factor (GTF) chromium (biologically active form found in brewer’s yeast). The combination and forms are designed to aid absorption though there are differences between the forms and the research carried out on each type. Both chromium picolinate and GTF forms of chromium are typically seen within supplements.

Chromium supplements are predominately available as tablets or capsules with a dose of 200 mcg, usually the recommendation is that chromium is taken in divided doses with food.

Chromium products

Bigvits are delighted to be able to offer a range of products containing chromium. These include multi nutrient products, targeted glucose optimiser products, and both picolinate and GTF single nutrient products. All products have been sourced from premium manufacturers, ensuring we are offering our customers optimal choices and aligned to forms used within research.

Related Products:

 

Summary

Chromium is an essential micro-nutrient that has shown promise in helping us manage our energy metabolism (carbohydrates, lipids and proteins). Found in a range of foods, though levels of chromium vary based on many factors. Supplementing chromium has shown benefit and should be considered if we assume our levels are low and we are optimising for health.

 

If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to info@bigvits.co.uk. Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.

This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read,and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.