Chromium Helps Support Blood Sugar Balance
Talking to patients about the trace mineral chromium may not be easy. Let’s face it, most patients are pretty familiar with minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc; however, many may not have heard of the trace mineral chromium. And yet chromium’s role in supporting health is just as significant as those other, more widely known, minerals.
The key role that chromium plays in the human body is by supporting blood sugar balance. It does this by influencing efficient transport of glucose into the cells. Once glucose is delivered to the cells, it can be used for energy and blood sugar levels become more balanced and stable. Chromium also helps support carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism.
As a trace mineral, not a lot of chromium is needed to have it influence health. According to the National Institutes of Health, the adult recommended adequate intake is between 50–200 mcg daily. The best food source of chromium is broccoli, which contains about 11 mcg per ½ cup serving. One cup of grape juice contains 8 mcg. A three-ounce pork chop contains 8.5 mcg and a whole wheat English muffin has about 4 mcg.
Although chromium deficiency is thought to be rare, it can be difficult for some patients to get enough chromium from diet alone. In addition, chromium levels tend to decline with age. Some medications such as antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, steroids, and H2 blockers may also reduce chromium absorption. For these and other reasons, integrative healthcare practitioners often look to dietary supplements to fill the gap.
The most common forms of chromium sold as a dietary supplement are chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, glucose-tolerance factor chromium (chromium GTF), and chromium cruciferate. Because chromium absorption can be an issue, many of these forms of chromium have been shown to be more easily absorbed and safer than other forms of chromium. When chromium is combined with picolinic acid, it is known as chromium picolinate, a substance that has been featured in the scientific research. Chromium GTF is found in Brewer’s yeast and that form is also very popular among integrative practitioners. A chelated chromium nicotinate glycinate is also available.
Other vitamins and minerals can be added to supplement formulations to enhance the health-supporting effects and absorption of chromium. For example, vitamin C has been shown to enhance chromium absorption. Other nutrients that have been shown to support blood sugar balance are vitamin E, magnesium, and vanadium.
There are many options available to healthcare professionals who are looking to supplement their patients with chromium.
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Martin J, Wang ZQ, Zhang XH, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation attenuates weight gain and increases insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2006;29(8):1826-1832.
Yin RV, Phung OJ. Effect of chromium supplementation on glycated hemoglobin and fasting plasma glucose in patients with diabetes mellitus. Nutrition Journal. 2015;14:14.
American Diabetes Association. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/3/133. Accessed March 2018.