Chromium is another essential micromineral but it has fewer functions than some of the others. Chromium is mainly known for controlling of blood sugar and maintaining muscle mass. It makes sense that much the work done on chromium in nutrition focused upon what chromium can do in promoting normal glucose tolerance and reducing reactive hypoglycaemia. The results have been very positive and the role could hardly be more important today, when so much food is excessively high in sugar and refined carbohydrate. Reactive hyperglycaemia reflects a state of loss of control over the blood sugar that has not yet reached a permanent or extreme status. Given today’s out-of-control high calorie diets more and more people are getting obese. Obese people generally respond only poorly to insulin and have some effects of insulin deficiency. This happens even though they produce at least a normal amount of insulin. This state is known as insulin resistance. With it comes loss of full normal control over the blood sugar. Chromium may or may not counteract the obesity itself, although there have been some claims for this, but it counteracts the insulin resistance by potentiating insulin’s actions. Beneficial effects from chromium supplements have also been noted in the area of body composition. Athletes and sports people and many others want to maintain and increase muscle mass and to minimize body fat. Many research publications clearly demonstrate these effects of chromium supplements. Reduction of body fat is also potentially very interesting for the purpose of slimming. Some published research shows that a real weight reduction can occur in overweight people. People of normal weight are more likely to show only a favourable change in the muscle-to-fat ratio. We think that chromium supplements act as a good accompaniment to weight reduction programmes using any calorie-controlled diet, since they are likely to minimize muscle wastage during slimming. Chromium supplements are recommended for people doing exercise, whether for weight loss or for athletic reasons, to help to optimise muscle mass and to reverse the chromium loss that accompanies exercise. We note too that insulin resistance, mentioned above, impairs bone calcium deposition. This implicates insulin resistance in osteoporosis. Since chromium combats insulin resistance chromium should be included into nutritional programmes for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis results from the resorption of bone that is due in part to the absence or inaction of insulin and oestrogens. The abnormally high blood insulin in insulin resistance impairs the synthesis of the oestrogen DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). In postmenopausal women, DHEA is almost the only source of oestrogens. So the postmenopausal woman with insulin resistance suffers worse postmenopausal symptoms. In a trial, 27 postmenopausal women, age 52-63, took 200mcg of chromium per day. As a result plasma insulin decreased 37.6%, plasma glucose decreased 26% and DHEA increased 24%. Therefore, in women of this age group the benefits of chromium, acting through the insulin system and through DHEA, appear to be substantial. >>Source

Uses in the body: helps to regulate blood sugar levels and, with vitamin B3, acts as a part of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF) that balances the action of insulin. Facilitates the uptake of glucose for energy release and aids the synthesis of essential fatty acids and cholesterol and may protect against arteriosclerosis.

Signs of deficiency: sweet cravings, poor concentration, feeling faint. A diet high in refined carbohydrates can result in a deficiency as chromium gets lost during the refining process.

Therapeutic uses: can relieve sweet cravings, PMS and mood swings. Especially useful for smokers, athletes (chromium can increase lean muscle mass) and those on weight-control diets.

Dietary sources: brewer’s yeast, wheatgerm, wholegrains, black pepper, cheese, liver and kidney, molasses, nuts, pulses.

Recommended daily allowance: 120µg
Typical therapeutic daily dose: 100µg to 200µg
Daily intake shouldn’t exceed: 200µg

Cautions: many chromium supplements are derived from yeast, which can trigger problems in people who are sensitive to it (eg, candida or thrush sufferers). Yeast-free chromium may be the solution, but it’s not certain if this works in exactly the same way metabolically. Not to be taken by diabetics on insulin without medical supervision.

Best taken: in the morning with food. A GTF chromium formula, preferably yeast-free, is likely to be the best option (check the label). If you aren’t yeast sensitive, one to two tablespoons of brewer’s yeast added to food every day is an effective and cheap way to maintain chromium levels.