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Chromium is an antioxidant and is responsible for the production of GTF or glucose tolerance factor. GTF is responsible for circulating sugar in the blood and can reduce insulin resistance in certain type of patients. This is the primary reason that chromium is often taken by individuals that are borderline diabetic.
Interestingly chromium isn’t well absorbed in the body when taken in supplement form. However, GTF is well absorbed and it is available in a supplement form as well. That is why many people with a chromium deficiency will use a GTF supplement or a combination of a GTF and chromium supplement for their sugar production.
Studies regarding the benefit of chromium and GTF are contradictive. What this means is that some studies suggest a benefit of using chromium based supplements for diabetics while others show no benefits at all. Studies that are more detailed suggest that the benefit is specifically for those with gestational diabetes and steroid induced diabetes.
The majority of people don’t get enough chromium in their diet; however, it is still rare for someone to suffer from a chromium deficiency. In fact, typically only pregnant women and older people who are very active have chromium deficiencies.
Low chromium levels can produce side effects such high blood pressure, increase in cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart attack or heart disease, increased risk of diabetes, increase of blood sugar levels and an increase in triglycerides. This is why it is assumed that taking chromium based supplements can aid in many of these problems.
You can get chromium from food; however, it would take 12,000 calories a day to produce the amount of chromium recommended by the USDA. However, regardless of this recommendation, most people don’t get this amount and they don’t suffer from a chromium deficiency.
Chromium has been studied for the benefits in a couple of areas including use for diabetics (as mentioned above) and for use to eliminate obesity. Most supplement companies sell chromium as a benefit for strength trainers as well as for heart health.
In studies for diabetes benefits, there appeared to be no benefit in blood sugar levels with people with type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes only specific types of diabetics were affected by taking chromium. Those were pregnant women and smokers.
In a separate study, smokers who were insulin resistant, although not necessarily diabetic, were tested to determine if chromium would reduce their resistance to insulin production and circulation in the body. Early results indicate that insulin resistance is reduced in smokers.
Because of the inconsistencies in studies regarding chromium, the FDA will not recommend its use for diabetic conditions. However, many doctors will suggest a chromium supplement for individuals who are pre-diabetic.
Several studies have been conducted for the use of chromium in obesity. Much like with the diabetes studies, results were mixed. In a study with the control group taking placebo, and the secondary group taking chromium, those taking chromium saw a reduction of fat and an increase of lean muscle mass in their bodies; this was without the benefit of diet or exercise. Although the changes were detected, the result was not considered clinically significant.
In a study with chromium against a control group who simply ate healthy foods and exercised, the control group did much better than those taking chromium alone. Another study had participants taking chromium in combination with diet and exercise and there was no difference between participants taking chromium and participants who were dieting and exercising but not taking chromium.
Chromium is often combined with cinnamon. It is thought that this makes it a doubly beneficial antioxidant , although there are no studies to back this up. In fact, studies on chromium don’t show many of the same benefits that other antioxidants have.
What this means is that while most antioxidants serve as a blocker when it comes to the production of cancer cells, chromium does not. In fact, too much chromium destroys healthy cells and causes other health issues.
There have been some animal studies conducted to determine the benefit of chromium for heart health. In animals, there were reductions in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol levels. What this means for people is unclear because many animal studies produce no results or even opposite results in humans.
As mentioned above, chromium alone doesn’t absorb well into the system, which is why chromium picolinate is recommended for supplements. Picolinate is a mineral the body easily recognizes and accepts, making it easier for other minerals to be absorbed in the body. Picolinate is combined with several supplements to ensure that the primary supplement is absorbed properly.
Some studies suggest that the combination of picolinate and chromium is very dangerous in the body when taken in high doses. That is why it is important to never go off label and take more chromium picolinate than recommended.
Chromium is sold as a strength training supplement as a benefit for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes as a heart healthy supplement and by some manufacturers as a metabolism booster. There is no clinical evidence that chromium benefits strength training. In addition, there is no evidence that it aids in the production of energy. However, this is typically the selling point that manufacturers use to sell chromium supplements.
You can purchase chromium in tablet or capsule form. The cost of chromium starts as low as $2, making it a very affordable supplement. You can get chromium from foods such as animal organs, whole grain foods, lean meat, cheese, brewer’s yeast, bran foods, black pepper and more.
When taken as prescribed, side effects of chromium are virtually non-existent. When taken off label some people have suffered from liver damage that can lead to death. In addition taking too much chromium can lead to:
Chromium can also interfere with the effectiveness of many medications and can make over the counter pain medications dangerous to take. If you are taking any medication for any medical condition, you should talk to your doctor before taking chromium. The FDA recommends that anyone who wishes to take chromium as a supplement should talk to their doctor first, regardless of whether or not you have a medical condition.
Chromium should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women. That is because chromium has never been tested on pregnant women or children. In addition, if you have liver disease or diabetes, you should not take chromium.
Taking more chromium than the daily recommended amount is not beneficial to the body. As mentioned above, taking too much chromium can lead to many medical issues. What’s more, several deaths have been attributed to chromium picolinate as a combination. It is worth noting, however, that in each case the person who died was taking triple the recommended dosage of chromium picolinate.
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