The chromium and diabetes “buzz” has been out there for a while. Many diabetics and a number of scientists believe that Chromium may help lower blood glucose levels, hence the excitement.
Chromium is considered an essential trace mineral, meaning that the body needs the mineral in trace amounts to run properly. It is not produced by the body and must be consumed in our diet or through nutritional supplements.
You need chromium to help metabolize fats and carbohydrates. The mineral also helps brain function and other bodily functions through fatty acid stimulation and cholesterol synthesis. Importantly, it also activates several key enzymes that produce chemical reactions in the body that are essential for life. Chromium is also needed for insulin metabolism. Wow! Who knew chromium did all that?
So, what’s the problem? Why not just load up on the mineral and get its normal health benefits, plus the possible benefit of it reducing your blood glucose levels? Well, that’s where it gets a little tricky.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
As mentioned above, people got excited about Chromium because a few studies suggested it could help you control your blood glucose levels. The problem is that chromium is really not fully understood.
For example, not enough research has been done to even establish an RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance of the mineral. Instead, the best they have come up with is an adequate intake amount which is approximately 35 mcg per day for men until they reach 50 years old, then it drops to 30 mcg. For women, the amount is 25 mcg per day, then 20 mcg after 50 years old.
Typically, you can reach these levels through food intake, rather than supplementation.
Another issue with chromium is that it may cause health problems if too much is taken. Incredibly, information regarding the possible side effects has been difficult to definitively determine, due to incomplete scientific studies. Nonetheless, possible side effects from too much intake include kidney damage.
WHAT ABOUT THE DIABETES LINK AGAIN
Again, the whole reason this article, and many others, has been written is that a few studies found that chromium supplementation helped type 2 diabetics control their glucose levels. The problem with these studies is that they were very poorly designed.
Basically, it is unclear if the chromium had anything to do with the positive glucose control results or some other unknown factor. No properly designed study has been done that offers any definitive proof.
Admittedly, this is a problem with many nutritional supplements. There are always inconclusive results and uncertainty. However, in this case, the strong weight of the evidence seems to be clear, chromium as an effective diabetes control substance is not yet established.
Also, it could cause your glucose levels to go too low. This may seem like a positive result given that if you could take a natural substance to help you lower your glucose this would be a good thing. However, given the unpredictability of chromium, supplementing with it could cause unforeseen problems.
NATURALLY OCCURRING IN FOOD
Generally, it is recommended that you meet all of your chromium needs through food intake. The following foods have higher amounts of chromium in them:
- Wheat germ
- Green peppers
- Brewer’s Yeast