Chromium is one of the nine essential micro-minerals, or trace elements. There are two main types of chromium; trivalent chromium, the type used in nutritional supplements, is found in nature, while the other type is a toxic and carcinogenic industrial chromium. Your body only absorbs a small amount of the chromium in foods and supplements, but it only needs a minute amounts of it. Men need 30 micrograms of chromium per day and women need 25 micrograms. Most supplements provide 50 to 200 micrograms of elemental chromium.
Glucose Tolerance Factor
GTF stands for glucose tolerance factor. In a study of rats fed a diet of Torula yeast, the rats developed abnormal glucose tolerance that could be reversed with brewer’s yeast. Later, the researchers discovered that trivalent chromium is the glucose tolerance factor present in brewer’s yeast. In humans, adequate intake of chromium might prevent the progression of abnormal glucose tolerance into type II diabetes. Chromium does not reverse the condition once it has developed, but may be useful for some individuals in controlling it. If you have type II diabetes and are not on any diabetes medications, chromium supplements may be safe to try. If you are on prescription medication, let your physician know, as adjustments to some medications may be necessary. Keep close track of your blood glucose level when you change your medication or supplements.
Studies of chromium's effect on blood lipid levels have shown inconsistent results. The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that, in some studies, low density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, and triglyceride levels were lowered and good cholesterol levels increased. The amounts of chromium used in these studies was higher than those usually obtained from diet and supplements. However, the people who experienced improved lipid profiles were individuals who had insufficient dietary intake.
Body Weight and Composition
If you take chromium instead of a placebo, you may lose slightly more weight than if you took the placebo. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that a meta-analysis of 10 studies showed that participants who received chromium lost about 2.4 pounds. A study conducted at the University of Vermont found that type II diabetics taking sulfonylurea with chromium picolinate actually gained weight, compared to the sulfonylurea plus placebo group. There is no evidence that chromium alters the composition of the body, as in increasing lean tissue or decreasing fatty tissue.
- Office of Dietary Supplements
- “The Merck Manual” Seventeenth Edition; Beers and Berkow, Eds.;1999
- Oregon State: Linus Pauling Institute: Chromium
- "Diabetes Care"; Chromium picolinate supplementation attenuates body weight gain and increases insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes; Wang, MJ et al.; 2006
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