Although it is an essential trace mineral , the precise mechanism of action of chrome is not well defined. Its primary function appears to be to enhance the action of insulin, which plays a role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism and storage. Trivalent chromium is the predominant form in the body and the biologically active form found in foods.
Chromium enables the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels by increasing the action of insulin and transporting glucose from the blood to cells, leading to greater insulin sensitivity.
While chromium has been associated with many health benefits, evidence is lacking. Some studies show improved glucose metabolism and lipid levels with chromium supplementation in people with diabetes. National Health and Nutrition Review Study data from 1999 to 2010 showed a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes in those who supplemented with chromium. Other studies show conflicting results or no benefit.
Complementary chromium, primarily in the form of chromium picolinate, has been studied for its potential effect on weight loss and enhanced insulin resistance. While some studies have shown a modest reduction in body weight, the results are not clinically relevant and the side effects can be uncomfortable.
Some bodybuilders use chromium supplements because of the relationship between chromium and insulin, an anabolic hormone. However, most studies show that chromium supplementation does not improve body composition.
While some studies show that chromium supplementation can reduce total and LDL cholesterol in certain populations, the role of chromium supplements in lipid metabolism is uncertain.
Ideal chromium amounts are not well defined. In 2001, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board defined Adequate Intake, or AI, using estimates of average dietary consumption in specific populations. Daily AI starts at 0.2 micrograms in the first six months of life and progresses to 15 micrograms for ages 4 to 8. At age 9, AI starts at 21 micrograms per day in women and progresses to 25 micrograms by age 50; Daily AI for men starts at 25 micrograms and progresses to 35 micrograms by age 50. Pregnant and lactating women have a daily AI of 29 to 30 micrograms and 44 to 45 micrograms, respectively. At age 50, the daily AI is 20 micrograms for women and 30 micrograms for men.
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level has not been established because few side effects have been associated with excessive intake.
Food contains naturally small amounts of chromium. Most people who consume a balanced diet get enough chromium from foods, and their absorption can be increased with foods rich in vitamin C and niacin.
* A good source as acceptable in order to be 3.5mcg must contain at least chromium per serving.
Chromium picolinate can provide up to 500 micrograms per dose. Chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate, and high chromium yeast are other complementary forms of trivalent chromium. Evidence on the use of chromium supplements is lacking and it is unclear which form is best.
Deficiencies are difficult to spot as there is no tool to accurately measure the chromium status. Theoretically, a deficiency can impair glucose tolerance and blood sugar control and contribute to glucose intolerance or the development of Type 2 diabetes . People who receive long-term parenteral nutrition may have inadequate chromium intake unless administered daily.
Trivalent chromium has low toxicity because it is poorly absorbed and rapidly excreted in the urine. Large amounts of chromium supplements can cause side effects such as stomach issues, watery stools, dizziness, headache, hives, low blood sugar, and kidney or liver damage.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease should not take chromium supplements without consulting a doctor. Chromium may impair absorption, increase excretion, or increase the effects of thyroid medications, antacids, acid reflux medications, corticosteroids , beta blockers, insulin, and some pain relievers.
After years of research, the nutritional role of chromium continues to be debated. Dietary chromium intake is recommended, as deficiency is rare and studies on the potential benefits of supplements have been inconclusive.
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