Last Updated December 20th, 2021
Chromium and your body
Did you know that about 1.6 million deaths were directly linked to diabetes globally? How is it linked to low levels of chromium? Chromium deficiency spoils the body’s ability to utilize glucose and increases cholesterol levels. Chromium Picolinate is a supplement by which you can quench the chromium deficit in your body. Is it safe? Will you be able to derive benefits from the supplement as opposed to a dietary source? Why is it so important?
- Chromium is an essential mineral that is needed in minute amounts.
- You can derive your chromium share from food sources like nuts, broccoli, coffee, etc.
- About 35 micrograms are needed for men and 25 micrograms are needed for women.
What role does it play in your body?
Insulin is a hormone that is produced to reduce blood glucose levels. Whenever the blood sugar rises in the body, the tendency of the body is to reduce it. The body responds to this by producing insulin. This, in turn, triggers the glucose breakdown machinery. This is conducive to 50%. For a complete glucose breakdown activation, a form of chromium (chromodulin) is needed. Chromodulin and insulin together help in the breakdown of glucose and convert it into stored form.
Chromium plays an important role in fat regulation. The absence of chromium (or presence of LOW chromium levels) results in the activation of certain genes or factors that are involved in adipogenesis (the process of synthesis of fat cells). So, low levels of chromium can be associated with increased cholesterol and fat build up. Higher levels of cholesterol shun insulin functioning.
What happens if there is too much chromium? Chromium is a trace mineral and must not exceed beyond the limitation mentioned above. If it does exceed, then it renders a toxic effect on the body. There are reports that show that it damages the DNA. Since chromium is involved in lowering the blood sugar levels, the excessive levels of chromium tend to suppress blood sugar levels to a dangerously low level. Also, an excess of this metal, will cause stomach problems and damage the liver because the body is not equipped well enough to process such high levels of this trace mineral.
What is chromium picolinate?
Chromium picolinate is the supplemental form of chromium. Some individuals cannot meet the needs of the chromium levels via a diet and will be asked to take supplements by the doctor. This compound is absorbed better in the body.
The downside of this is that the United States Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements. So, the safety of dietary supplements is not guaranteed. Up to 1000 micrograms of chromium picolinate is considered safe till about 6 months.
Chromium picolinate could lower blood sugar
A clinical trial was done for about 8 weeks (a total of 25 trials). The study was done on diabetic individuals. These volunteers were provided with chromium supplements along with supplements of vitamin E and C. The glycemic index (a value where the higher number indicates blood sugar increase) showed a considerable decrease and also improved the insulin sensitivity. Reports also show that chromium supplements did not affect insulin secretion or functioning even in healthy people.
Another large scale study was done on about 62000 adults. Those who had taken chromium supplements were 27% less likely to get diabetes. There are other studies contradicting to this where they have shown no effect on the blood glucose levels in healthy people. So, more investigations need to be done to be sure about this.
Chromium Picolinate for cravings and moods
Most of the people who are in a weight loss diet regime have a tendency towards reverting back to their previous style of eating. They indulge in binge eating or cravings. The feelings of hunger usually increase post-dieting period. The chromium picolinate supplements help in curbing these cravings.
There was a study done on 42 adult women. These women were given 50 micrograms/kg body weight of chromium picolinate for 8 weeks. The reports show that they lost a substantial amount of body weight. Also, these women reported having reduced cravings for sweets, carbohydrates, high-fat foods and fast foods in due course of time.
Some researchers also attribute this change to the changes in the brain due to chromium. Some researchers also prove that those who have a binge eating disorder or are depressed can be treated with reduced cravings or hunger levels via chromium picolinate supplements. There are reports on doses of 600 to 1000 microgram per day showing a decreased frequency of binge eating episodes and symptoms of depression.
Chromium picolinate and weight loss
A pilot scale study was done on 622 women who were obese. These obese individuals were given about 1000 μg/day of chromium picolinate for 12 – 16 weeks. The investigations show that chromium picolinate resulted in very small amounts of weight loss (about 1.1 kg) after the treatment duration.
Even though there is a correlation between the supplemental intake and loss of weight, the causal relation is yet to be proved. There are many studies talking about chromium picolinate showing zero effect on weight reduction on healthy individuals even when they were made to exercises on a regular basis throughout the treatment period. The previous topic of reducing cravings or hunger levels can play a role in weight reduction in obese people. Further investigation needs to be done in this area.
|Food source||Chromium content (in micrograms per 100 g of the food)|
|Wholemeal or wheat bread||42|
Debate on chromium and whether it helps in weight loss
Your body needs minerals like magnesium, zinc, and chromium in moderate amounts for overall health and functioning. Especially for those who are physically active, care must be taken to ensure an optimal nutrient supply via the diet to manage the energy expenditure and also to improve stamina.
When you extensively exercise, you will excrete minerals via the sweat and urine. This will be replenished via the food intake. It is a proven fact that zinc and magnesium help in improving muscle strength, metabolism, and recovery. Consuming supplements of chromium might cause an increase in muscle strength, fat loss, muscle recovery as such.
Is it really necessary to take chromium supplements?
Knowing about the role of chromium in the body, there are contradictory reports on whether the consumption of chromium supplements is needed or not. There is no upper limit being defined. Some studies talk about the effects of chromium on reducing sugar and also causing weight loss and some studies show that there is no change in any of these parameters.
It is ok to consume it but overdoing it will have its own fatal repercussions. The upper limit for nutrients is usually defined by the National Academy of Medicine where an increase beyond the set limit causes toxic effects or other health complications. The amount of research done on chromium supplements is too less and contradictory to be sure of defining parameters for consuming it.
Is it really safe to consume chromium picolinate?
Chromium picolinate is a safe supplement to consume. There are few studies showing that this supplement is processed in the body and gives rise to harmful radicals.
Other reports show that excess of chromium can lead to DNA damage. Damage in the sole genetic material will have abnormalities at the genetic level. Some studies also talk about serious kidney damage.
Side effects of chromium picolinate
The following are the side effects of chromium supplements:
- Watery stool
- Skin irritation
- Mood changes
- Process of judgment, coordination, and thinking gets abnormal
The following are some chronic side effects:
- Blood disorders like anemia (low red blood cell count), autoimmune anemia (body’s own immune system kills the body’s own blood cells), etc.
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
It is not clear on whether the chromium supplements cause kidney or liver damage, but it is advisable to not consume these supplements if you have a kidney or a liver ailment. Those who have behavioral or psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia must be careful while taking these supplements. It is said that chromium affects the chemistry of the brain and this can worsen these psychiatric conditions.
The final takeaway
Chromium is an important trace mineral that is actively involved in insulin functioning and blood glucose reduction. There are reports that it may help in reducing your appetite and minimize your hunger tendencies. You can obtain chromium via food sources like coffee, nuts, red wine, etc., and also via chromium picolinate supplements. These supplements are generally safe to consume in moderate amounts.
There are reports clearly showing not a very notable weight loss upon taking these supplements and there are doubts on whether the weight loss is because of the chromium or not. You should also know that deficiency of chromium rarely occurs but an excess of chromium levels have a toxic effect on the body. It can cause serious damages at the genetic level. Whatever it is, if at all you think of taking chromium picolinate supplements, first consult a doctor to deduce on your health condition and chromium levels.
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