Chromium Supplements and Type 2 Diabetes
The human body needs chromium, a trace mineral, for several essential functions including the normalizing of blood sugar levels.
Although severe chromium deficiencies are uncommon, a typical American diet may lack an optimal supply of chromium. There is little of this mineral in our water and soil, and the commercial processing of food often removes chromium.
Chromium and Glucose
The mineral chromium is needed for the body’s production of the compound GTF, or Glucose Tolerance Factor. GTF makes insulin more efficient. It assists insulin in getting the blood’s supply of glucose into our cells for fuel.
Some individuals with type 2 diabetes start taking supplements for a chromium deficiency, and find they need less medication to stabilize their blood sugar. There is little research evidence showing that chromium supplements improve insulin function where there is no dietary deficiency—but there are many anecdotal reports from type 2 diabetics that chromium tablets help with blood sugar management.
If you use insulin or other diabetes medication, talk to your physician before taking chromium supplements. He or she may recommend more frequent monitoring to determine whether medication adjustments are needed. Be aware that not all individuals with diabetes find chromium supplements helpful.
Other Chromium Functions
Because chromium boosts insulin, it is considered essential for the breakdown and storage of carbohydrates, protein, and fats in the body. Chromium is needed for the metabolism of DNA materials (nuclei acid), and to process the fatty acids and cholesterol necessary for brain and other body functions.
Some chromium supplements, such as brewer’s yeast, have raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in research studies. Having sufficient chromium also helps maintain healthy blood pressure and may promote weight loss.
Chromium in Food
Anyone with a chromium deficiency could experience increased glucose intolerance, and in senior adults the deficiency may lead to type 2 diabetes. It is important to eat a varied diet of whole foods whenever possible.
Adolescents and adults generally require at least 25 to 50 micrograms (mcg) of chromium each day, depending which chart you look at. Although many foods contain chromium, some only offer a couple micrograms per serving—if they are fresh and unprocessed. Whole grains, for instance, lose their chromium when refined, since the mineral is mainly in the bran and germ which are removed.
Brewer’s yeast is the best dietary source of chromium, but not everyone digests this well. Other items with high amounts are molasses, egg yolks, and raw onion.
You also get chromium from:
Fruits: oranges, apples, grapes, bananas
Meats: chicken, beef, turkey, liver
Vegetables: broccoli, alfalfa, green beans, carrots, green peppers, romaine lettuce, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes (ripe)
Grains/Dairy: whole grains, wheat germ, brown rice, cheese, dried beans
Chromium Supplements: General Safety
Chromium is available as an OTC nutritional supplement in tablet and capsule form, or may be prescribed and given by injection. Also, a good daily multivitamin should contain sufficient supplemental chromium.
According to the Mayo Clinic, no overdoses or side effects have been reported with chromium use. When taken as directed by your doctor, or according to the label recommendations, it is considered safe.
Any supplement taken in extremely high amounts can cause side effects or damage, including chromium.
Always check to make sure OTC products are compatible with any other medications you are on, and report adverse reactions to your doctor. If you are pregnant, okay the use of a supplement with your obstetrician.