Chromium is an element that was discovered in the late 1790s, but its biological importance wasn’t elucidated until the late 1950s. In a fascinating experiment, researchers found that a component isolated from Brewer’s Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was able to regulate blood sugar levels in rats. It was found, later, that this component was chromium.
Chromium is a micronutrient, a mineral required in minute quantities by the human body for its proper functioning. More specifically, chromium plays a vital role in the way insulin performs in our bodies. Revelation of this role has led to the use of supplemental chromium to help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics.
In diabetes, a condition that does not allow insulin to act efficiently in regulating normal blood sugar levels is insulin resistance (IR). IR is the inability of the cells to respond to the gentle prodding of insulin to let glucose enter inside to be used as fuel. Cells allow glucose to enter inside and are said to be “sensitive” to the action of insulin. When this sensitivity is lost, the cells become “insulin resistant.”
Chromium combines with a protein called transferrin. The transferrin-chromium complex enters insulin-resistant cells. Once inside the cell, the chromium is released from the protein complex and binds to a compound called low molecular weight chromium binding substance (LMWCr, also called chromodulin). Binding of chromium activates LMWCr, which then initiates a series of complex biochemical reactions the result of which is the amplification of insulin action. This activity eventually allows insulin to effectively bind to its receptors, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity.
The earliest study that ignited interest in using supplemental chromium to bring down blood sugar levels in diabetics and to decrease their dependence on insulin and other medication was done in the late 1970s. Within two weeks of supplementing with chromium, the subject showed marked improvement in signs and symptoms, including blood sugar levels and reduced requirements of insulin. There have been many studies till date that underline the efficacy of supplemental chromium in not only reducing blood glucose levels but also on improving lipid profile by decreasing cholesterol levels. In a study, for example, on 180 adult subjects with diabetes, supplementing with chromium significantly decreased HbA1c, blood glucose and cholesterol levels. View research
Apart from its well-documented effects in diabetics in controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels, some studies have also shown the effects of chromium in weight loss and muscle gain. By reducing cholesterol levels (especially LDL, low density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol), chromium can also play a vital role in heart health.
Severe chromium deficiency is rarely seen in healthy people. However, mild to moderate deficiency in a majority of the people is due to bad dietary habits and an over-reliance on “convenience” or fast/proessed foods. A healthy, real diet can supplement enough chromium for the body to function efficiently. Foods rich in chromium include: Brewer’s yeast, Whole grains, Brown rice, Meat, Sea food, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Green beans, Chicken, Beef, Cereals, Cheese, Potatoes, Eggs, Corn, and Dairy.
Herbs like, Nettle, Catnip, Wild yam, Licorice, Horsetail, Red clover, Sarsaparilla, Yarrow, and Oat straw are also rich in chromium.
Chromium is usually available as a combination with a biological chemical entity. The most common forms of chromium supplements are chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, chromium histidinate, chromium-enriched yeast, chromium chloride and glucose tolerance factor (GTF). Most studies indicate a dosage of 200 to 600 micrograms of supplemental chromium for blood sugar regulation. The polynicotinate form of chromium works best as it is bound to niacin (vitamin B3), which improves the efficacy of chromium inside cells. And, yet another form is chroimium frutoborate, which has demonstrated activity in enhancing bone density and also offering high abosorption.
In Conclusion: Chromium is vital for glucose metabolism. Deficiency of this nutrient can mimic symptoms of diabetes mellitus and eventually lead to full-blown diabetes. Thus chromium is an important mineral for preventing diabetes. Also, it can be supplemented in diabetic patients to reduce their dependence on anti-diabetic medication which cause many side effects and other long term health complications.