Alternative Medicine - - Editor’s Picks - BY JOHN BEN­SON


Chromium is a min­eral the body needs in small amounts. Its pri­mary func­tions are aid­ing di­ges­tion, pro­mot­ing nor­mal growth, and main­tain­ing op­ti­mum health. Chromium even helps slow cal­cium loss as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing and en­hances the body’s in­sulin re­ac­tion, which helps process blood sugar, fats, pro­teins, and car­bo­hy­drates.

Ac­cord­ing to An­drew Weil, MD, al­most half of the US pop­u­la­tion is mildly chromium de­fi­cient. Pro­cessed foods—which com­pose a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet—are gen­er­ally stripped of their nat­u­ral chromium, and foods high in sim­ple sug­ars in­hibit the body from pro­cess­ing chromium. Some symp­toms of chromium de­fi­ciency in­clude anx­i­ety, fa­tigue, high blood sugar, high choles­terol, and pro­longed in­jury re­cov­ery time.

No Rec­om­mended Di­etary Al­lowance (RDA) ex­ists for chromium; how­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Li­nus Paul­ing In­sti­tute at Ore­gon State Univer­sity, the body re­quires more chromium as we age. Re­searchers sug­gest men older than 14 years re­quire 35 μg per day, whereas women older than 14 years re­quire 25 μg.

Sev­eral stud­ies are un­der­way that specif­i­cally ad­dress the ef­fects of chromium. For type 2 di­a­betes, re­search fo­cuses on chromium's abil­ity to coun­ter­act the body's in­sulin re­sis­tance. Re­search has also shown that high doses of chromium (150 μg to 1,000 μg) de­crease lev­els of low-den­sity lipopro­tein (LDL) choles­terol—the bad stuff—and in­crease con­cen­tra­tions of apolipopro­tein A, which is con­nected to high-den­sity lipopro­tein (HDL) choles­terol—the good stuff. Chromium also sup­ports im­mune func­tion by re­duc­ing cor­ti­sol lev­els and in­creas­ing im­munoglob­u­lin lev­els. Eye health is an­other im­por­tant ben­e­fit of chromium in­take. In fact, re­search has es­tab­lished a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween low chromium lev­els and an in­creased risk of glau­coma.

Where do we find chromium? It ex­ists nat­u­rally in many foods, in­clud­ing brewer's yeast, meats, pota­toes, cheeses, mo­lasses, spices, whole-grain breads and ce­re­als, and fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles. Broc­coli, one of the best sources of chromium, con­tains ap­prox­i­mately 22 μg of chromium per cup. Chromium also ex­ists in un­fil­tered tap wa­ter, and it's re­leased into food pre­pared in stain­less steel cook­ware. Although the preva­lence of chromium is good news, re­mem­ber that min­er­als are of­ten dif­fi­cult for the body to ab­sorb—so con­sider us­ing chromium sup­ple­ments.

Chromium pi­col­i­nate is a com­mon sup­ple­ment made by com­bin­ing chromium and pi­col­inic acid, which helps the body ab­sorb the chromium ef­fi­ciently. Although it is touted as a weight loss sup­ple­ment, most stud­ies are in­con­clu­sive. Other sup­ple­ment forms of chromium in­clude chromium cit­rate, chromium chlo­ride, chromium nicoti­nate, and high-chromium yeast. Fur­ther, if your mul­tivi­ta­min con­tains vi­ta­min C and niacin, it will aid in chromium ab­sorp­tion.

Cau­tion is nec­es­sary, how­ever, when tak­ing chromium sup­ple­ments. Com­mon side ef­fects of too much chromium in­take are headache, in­som­nia, mood changes, and ir­ri­tabil­ity. In ad­di­tion, please read the sup­ple­ment la­bel care­fully, as it may con­tain ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents that cause ad­verse in­ter­ac­tions. Also, please ad­vise your doc­tor if you are tak­ing or plan to take a sup­ple­ment, be­cause sev­eral med­i­ca­tions will in­ter­act with chromium caus­ing in­creased stom­ach acid­ity—which will pre­vent ab­sorp­tion.

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