By Jan de Vries, originally published Winter 2004
Of all the trace minerals in our diet chromium is probably one of the most important key nutrients for the healthy regulation of blood sugars. It would appear that as our diets turn towards processed foods and away from whole grains, the levels of dietary chromium is dropping in the population. Could this change in our eating habits explain the rising trend in late onset diabetes. Other blood sugar imbalances such as reactive hypoglycaemia are more common in those with low chromium levels and can be responsible for mood and other emotional upsets and flagging mid-day energy levels.
According to numerous scientific papers, chromium has far reaching biological actions that are not only related to sugar metabolism; these include improving blood fat levels by reducing circulation cholesterol through to halving the amount of calcium lost in the urine and improving bone health in menopausal women. Even though chromium is normally consumed in micrograms it would appear to have a powerful effect in the maintenance of general health and the well-being many body systems.
|Fact File|| |
||Most whole foods
||Low, but insulin dependent diabetics need professional supervision if chromium is taken.
||May reduce the bodies needs for injected insulin making hypoglycaemic episodes a potential hazard in diabetics.
How does chromium work?
Blood sugar control
At the heart of blood sugar control is the hormone insulin. For insulin to function correctly it must be able to bind to the cells of the body enabling them to absorb circulating sugars. Chromium acts as a go-between, allowing the hormone to dock on the cell surface and facilitate sugar uptake.
A deficiency of chromium makes our bodies resistant to the actions of insulin causing imbalances in blood sugar levels that induce further insulin release in an attempt to bring the rising blood sugar level back into control. Such a rise often causes a drop in blood sugars and the characteristic ups and downs in mood and emotions. Chromium appears to have the ability to module blood sugar levels, smoothing out the peaks and troughs.
The Chromium – Cholesterol connection
It has long been known that high blood sugars are associated with an elevated blood cholesterol level and an increased risk of heart disease. This is one of the biggest medical complications to diabetes.
However as far back as the late 60’s it was known that a deficiency of chromium was associated with hardening of the arteries and a build up of cholesterol in the walls of important blood vessels such as the aorta.
Although the exact mechanism is not understood it is likely that chromium’s balancing effect on blood sugars has an important role to play.
One of chromium’s more unusual actions is related to calcium metabolism. The common problem of osteoporosis associated with a drop in oestrogen levels at menopausal may be eased by taking a little extra chromium polynicotinate (ChromeMate) in the diet. Studies have shown that women taking chromium supplements have improved oestrogen levels that resulted in a 50% drop in the loss of calcium in the urine.
Who can benefit from chromium?
When all the health benefits of this trace mineral can be weighed up, the answer is probably anyone! Chromium is a very safe mineral with a wide range of uses and a very low level of toxicity. In fact in a report published by the European Federation of Health Product Manufacturers Association states that there is “no evidence of toxicity from orally ingested trivalent (organic) chromium” and proposes that 200ug can be safely taken over long periods of time.
Chromium is probably of most help to those that suffer from blood sugar imbalances. Women who notice that sugar cravings are a problem in the second half of the menstrual cycle are a classic example. Dosing up on chromium can make a real difference to energy and mood levels that plague PMS sufferers.
No RDA established, however 200ug daily carries no risk of side effects and is recommended in most cases. Diabetics should only take chromium under professional supervision.
Egg yolk, Molasses, Brewers yeast, Cheese, Wholemeal bread, Beef, Grape juice, Chicken (dark meat)
From the Jan de Vries archives
I hope you enjoyed Jan’s words of wisdom. We really can’t stress how important this trace mineral is for blood sugar imbalances but it may also be worthwhile taking a gentle chromium supplement if you are going through the menopause. Solgar’s Chromium Picolinate Vegetable Capsules are 100% vegan-friendly and provide that perfect 200ug dose Jan mentioned.
Lamberts Chromium Complex Tablets are another great option, providing that all important 200ug dose in each vegetarian-friendly tablet. Lamberts also include 300mg of magnesium as well as vitamins B1 & B6, making it a great all-rounder!