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On Chromium Deficiency and Supplementation

Chromium is an essential mineral that few people think of when they're planning their diet. Despite its lack of nutritional fame, chromium plays an important role - particularly when it comes to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. A deficiency of chromium can be particularly problematic for diabetics - because of the way this minerals affects insulin - the most important hormone for regulating glucose. Are you getting enough chromium in your diet?

What's the Significance of a Chromium Deficiency?

When chromium intake is too low it can affect blood sugar levels in diabetics. One of the most important roles chromium plays in the body is to help insulin do the job of transporting glucose into the cells where it can be stored or used for energy. When there's a chromium deficiency, this process breaks down and it can lead to higher blood sugar levels. Because of chromium's effect on carbohydrate metabolism, it's often marketed by vitamin suppliers as a way to lose weight and build muscle - but there's not a lot of evidence to support this claim. Despite this, some body builder's take this mineral in supplement form for muscle building.

A Deficiency of Chromium Can Affect the Heart Too

Adequate chromium intake is also important for metabolism of triglycerides and cholesterol, and a deficiency of chromium could lead to elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels - but there's little evidence to suggest that chromium supplements helps lower cholesterol or triglycerides in people who aren't deficient. Some studies also show that people who are deficient in chromium have a higher risk of heart disease - so it's important to get enough of this mineral in the diet.

How Common is Chromium Deficiency?

Since only small amounts of chromium are needed, deficiency of chromium isn't that common. It's most commonly seen in older people, athletes, women who are pregnant, and people who eat a high carbohydrate diet. Some experts believe that supplementing with chromium can help diabetics better control their blood sugars, but the verdict is still out on whether this is safe long term. There have been cases of liver toxicity and abnormal heart rhythms from taking chromium supplements at higher doses.

Deficiency of Chromium: The Best Way to Prevent It?

It's not clear whether supplementing with chromium is safe, so the best way to boost chromium intake is through diet. The best sources of chromium are onions, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, Brewer's yeast, mushrooms, organ meats, nuts, and whole grains. Diabetics should take extra steps to add these foods to their diet to reduce the risk of a chromium deficiency. If you take antacids, it's also important to add chromium-rich foods to your diet, since antacids reduce chromium absorption. The Bottom Line? Get your chromium from food sources and hold off on supplements until more research is available.

Copyright ©2010-2013. Published with permission. Dr. Kristie Leong is a freelance writer and is not affiliated with

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