Trace Element Chromium Involved in Sugar Transport into Cells


Chromium in a nutshell:
While chromium is accepted as a nutritional requirement, doctors are not totally sure what it does.  It’s possible that it might help control blood sugar levels by making insulin more effective at a cellular level.  It’s part of the glucose tolerance factor.  Chromium supplements may be helpful for women suffering from gestational diabetes.

Best source of chromium for Juicers
Chromium is found in green peppers, parsnips, spinach, carrots, lettuce, string beans and cabbage.

Most nutritional scientists agree that chromium is an essential trace mineral, even though they are not entirely sure what it does.

Alternative names: Chromium; chromium chloride; chromium nicotinate; chromium picolinate; high-chromium yeast.

What Is Chromium?

sweet-green-pepperChromium is the source of the shiny gray metal known as "chrome," used to coat car ornaments and indoor water faucets. Chemically, chromium is known as "divalent." There is a trivalent form of chromium that can form bonds with up to three other atoms. This form of chromium is a nutrient. There is also a hexavalent form of chromium that can from bonds with up to six other atoms. This form of chromium is poisonous, but stomach acid can convert small amounts of toxic, hexavalent chromium into safe, trivalent chromium.

What Does Chromium Do in the Human Body?

The trivalent form of chromium seems to increase the activity of insulin as it transports sugar into cells for use as fuel.

Insulin works by attaching itself to a receptor site, a microscopic structure that can be likened to a docking port, on the outside of a cell. When insulin locks to its receptor site on the outside of the cell, a chromium compound called low-molecular-weight chromium-binding-substance travels inside the cell and helps the insulin transport more sugar. Probably chromium helps maintain a favorable electrostatic charge across the outer membrane of the cell that pulls the glucose sugar inside the cell.

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Chromium?

Scientists don't have a good way to measure the amount of chromium in the body and only a very few cases of unequivocal chromium deficiency have ever been observed. Some people who had to receive parenteral (intravenous) nutrition, bypassing the digestive tract, developed insulin resistance and high bloodstream sugar levels (since insulin was less efficient for moving sugar out of the bloodstream into the cells that use it). Some infants fed exclusively on formula have also developed high blood sugar levels that were easily treated with a single dose of chromium supplements.spinach

How You Can Get Enough Chromium

Scientists really don't know how much chromium is enough for optimal health. They just know the average consumption of chromium in healthy people:

  • Healthy infants up to six months old usually receive about 0.2 micrograms (millionths of a gram) of chromium from their diets each day.
  • Healthy babies six months to a year old usually receive about 2.0 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy children aged 1 to 3 usually receive 11 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy children aged 4 to 8 usually receive 15 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy girls aged 9 to 13 usually receive about 21 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy boys aged 9 to 13 usually receive about 25 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy females aged 14 to 18 usually receive about 24 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy males aged 14 to 18 usually receive about 35 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • lettuceHealthy women aged 19 to 50 usually receive about 25 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy men aged 19 to 50 usually receive about 35 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy women over the age of 50 usually receive about 20 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Healthy men over the age of 50 usually receive about 30 micrograms of chromium from their diets every day.
  • Pregnant women need 29 to 30 micrograms of chromium every day.
  • Breastfeeding mothers need 44 to 45 micrograms of chromium every day.

But how can you be sure of getting that amount of chromium? There are no charts of foods listed with their chromium content. The reason for this is the chromium content of individual foods can vary by a factor of as much as 10,000% depending on where the food was raised and how it was processed.

  • Different samples of the same cereal have contained as little as 0.15 micrograms and as much as 70 micrograms in a single serving.green-beans
  • Processed foods tend to contain more chromium than fresh foods, probably because of chromium contamination during the manufacturing process.
  • Beer and red wine in France contain significant amounts of chromium, but chromium has never been measured in beer or red wine in the USA.
  • Canadians get 2 to 3 times more chromium from their diets than Americans, despite the fact most Canadians eat some American-made food products and many American companies use Canadian farm products.

Given the variability in the chromium content of food from country to country and even from harvest to harvest, the only way to be sure you are getting enough chromium is by taking a chromium supplement. But since no one who eats either whole or processed foods ever suffers a chromium deficiency disease, there is no need to make sure you are getting enough chromium unless you have a disease condition that can be supported by chromium.

Supporting Recovery from Disease with Chromium

Chromium supplements are sometimes recommended for increasing muscle mass. Measurements of before and after muscle mass with dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, however, have failed to find any benefit from taking chromium.

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry

Chromium supplements are also recommended for supporting weight loss. An analysis of ten studies found that average additional weight loss when dieters take chromium picolinate is 1.4 kilos (about 3 pounds) over a three-month period.

Chromium supplements are also often recommended for type 2 diabetics. Although there is no conclusive evidence that type 2 diabetes is a chromium deficiency disease, taking chromium picolinate may help some type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar levels. Taking 1000 micrograms (1 mg) of chromium picolinate per day for 3 months may lower average blood sugar levels by 15 to 19%, but taking just 200 micrograms per day won't have any effect.

parsnipsChromium supplements are also helpful for many women who have gestational diabetes. It's important, however, to keep in mind what chromium can do and what it can't. Chromium makes insulin more effective. If the body is not producing insulin at all, however, chromium cannot lower blood sugar levels. Diabetics who actually need injected insulin to lower their blood sugar levels, even if they were originally diagnosed as type 2 diabetics, do not benefit from chromium.

What Is the Maximum Dose of Chromium?

There are no reported side effects of taking as much as 3000 micrograms of chromium nicotinate every day for up to 3 months. There have been a few cases in which taking as little as 600 micrograms of chromium picolinate, however, resulted in kidney failure that was reversible when the supplement was discontinued. Take chromium picolinate if you need to take the 1000 microgram per day dosage to support lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. If you already have liver or kidney disease, to be on the safe side do not take chromium supplements at all.

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About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Andy Williams, B.SC., Ph.D. is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter. You can also follow me on Google +

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