Chromium is a very elusive essential trace mineral. Researchers believe that chromium may be used to manage diabetes, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and cholesterol levels. While there is some evidence that does support these uses, more research is needed prove chromium is beneficial for these specific indications. We’re going to talk about what the research says about the health benefits of taking chromium.
What Is Chromium
Chromium is an essential trace mineral naturally found in the environment. It comes in two different forms; the first is trivalent, also referred to as CR III, which is the form found in dietary supplements. The second is hexavalent or CR VI, which is considered a toxin.
Types Of Chromium
There are many different types of chromium, yet chromium picolinate is the most common found in dietary supplements
- Chromium Picolinate - Chromium picolinate is the mineral chromium attached to three molecules of picolinic acid
- Chromium chloride - added chloride molecules
- Chromium histidinate – added amino acid l-histidine
- Chromium malate – added malic acid
- Chromium polynicotinate
- Chromium nicotinate
- Chromium trichloride – added chloride molecules
Health Benefits Of Taking Chromium
1. May Help Insulin Sensitivity
Chromium is required in human metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. It helps in converting glucose into energy promoting healthy blood glucose levels, which can be very beneficial for those who are prediabetic or have type II diabetes. It’s been found to enhance insulin sensitivity and overcoming glucose intolerance.
Chromium has also been shown to enhance lean body mass by suppressing appetite.
Insulin resistance a prediabetic condition, precedes the onset type II diabetes and offers an early intervention. Although lifestyle modifications to diet and exercise can help postpone or reduce the incidence of diabetes, compliance with these conditions is difficult for most, warranting pharmacological intervention. Most of the current drugs available that improve insulin sensitivity have been associated with adverse effects [R].
A large study published in the Journal Of Nutrition which included more than 62,000 participants found that there was a 27% lower chance of having diabetes in those who supplemented with Chromium [R].
Therefore, research has shown that taking chromium supplements benefits those with diabetes by improving their blood sugar. [R].
2. May Help Treat Depression
Recent studies have investigated the association of chromium picolinate in treating depression. One of the proposed mechanisms of action or theories is that chromium causes cells to be more sensitive to insulin. Increased sensitivity is thought to transport an amino acid called tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system.
Tryptophan is converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which regulates mood.
In a small pilot trial patients with atypical depression demonstrated significant positive therapeutic response to chromium picolinate.
113 adult outpatients with atypical depression were randomized 2:1 to receive 600 mug/day of elemental chromium, as provided by chromium picolinate (CrPic), or placebo.
Results suggested that the main effect of chromium was on carbohydrate craving and appetite regulation in depressed patients and that 600 mug of elemental chromium may be beneficial for patients with atypical depression who also have severe carbohydrate craving [R].
3. Cardiovascular Disease
Low chromium levels have been associated with those at risk for cardiovascular events [R]. With that said, chromium deficiency is found in diets rich with refined foods, which leads to a number of diseases, metabolic dysfunctions, and diverse health problems. Furthermore, chromium loss is observed during long period of stress such as pregnancy, infection, physical trauma, and strenuous exercise.
Those at increased risk of cardiovascular disease are also associated with increased physical stress and lifestyle factors. Evidence indicates that chromium picolinate supplementation may help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease [R].
4. Could Help Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance disorder. Women with PCOS may have irregular menstrual cycles and elevated levels of the hormone androgen. Although the exact cause is unknown, you can manage PCOS to alleviate symptoms and mitigate the risk of diabetes with specific supplements for PCOS.
Researchers purport that excess insulin may be a potential cause of PCOS. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows your body to regulate and use sugar for energy. If you become resistant to insulin, then your blood sugar levels rise and your body will produce more insulin in response. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation. Evidence also shows that PCOS could be hereditary.
A systematic review examined the effects of chromium supplementation on insulin resistance in women with PCOS. Five randomized controlled trials were included within the search criteria and showed no significant difference in fasting insulin between chromium and placebo. Yet two of the studies did show a difference between chromium and placebo groups. Clinical relevance was determined to be uncertain, with more studies needed to confirm results [R].
Another systematic review and meta-analysis examined seven randomized controlled trials and found that chromium supplementation had a positive effect on body mass index (BMI), fasting insulin, and free testosterone concentration in patients with PCOS [R].
Chromium Picolinate: Takeaway
More evidence is needed to support the use of chromium picolinate supplements for potential benefits associated with diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders. Research however does clearly indicate that chromium has a positive effect on insulin levels, metabolism of macronutrients, and promoting healthy blood glucose levels.