Chromium is an essential micromineral that plays an important role in regulating blood sugar and metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Chromium helps carbohydrates move into the cells by making them more sensitive to insulin. It is a part of glucose tolerance factor (GTF) and enhances function of insulin.
Food Sources and Absorption:
Chromium is found in the body in the organic active form in the trivalent state (as a part of GTF) or bound to beta globulin protein. There are approximately 6 – 10 mg of chromium stored in the body especially in the muscles, adipose tissues, skin, brain, kidneys, and testicles. Brewer`s yeast is the best food source of chromium. Other sources are beef, liver, eggs, chicken, whole wheat, wheat germ, potatoes (especially skin), green pepper, banana, and apple.
Unfortunately, the absorption of chromium is poor. Only up to 3% of chromium in foods is absorbed and most of it is eliminated through stools. Tissue levels of chromium and its absorption decline by age, increasing propensity to develop diabetes.
Athletic Benefits of Chromium:
Chromium enhances sensitivity of the cells to insulin, leading to an increase in the cellular uptake of amino acids, a boost in enhancing lean body mass, and an increase in metabolic rate. When taken during the “anabolic window” (within 30 minutes after exercise), chromium shows anabolic – like activity by enhancing insulin function followed by transporting amino acids into the cells to synthesize protein.
Moreover, according to our experience at the Canadian Academy of Sports Nutrition, decreased levels of chromium in the body may lower blood levels of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is a pro-hormone to produce testosterone. Potential athletic benefits of chromium are:
- Enhances lean body mass.
- Decreases body fat.
- May help change body composition.
- Improves protein synthesis.
- Enhances exercise capacity and delays exhaustion time in a prolonged exercise session when taking along with carbohydrates.
- May act as a testosterone booster.
- May enhance uptake of creatine by the muscles.
Non – Athletic Benefits of Chromium:
Chromium may be beneficial in the following conditions:
- Diabetes type II.
- Insulin resistance.
- Weight management.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- High LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Craving for carbohydrates.
- Reversing CLA paradox (See “Conjugated Linoleic Acid” under the section of “Sports – Performance Enhancers”).
Dosage and Side Effects:
Chromium is a part of many multivitamins. However, it is also available in several forms, including chromium polynicotinate, chromium acetate, chromium citrate, chromium histidinate, chromium picolinate, chromium chloride, and glucose tolerance factor chromium (GTF). Chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate are the most popular ones.
The daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of chromium for adults are 30 – 35 mcg and 20 – 25 mcg for men and women, respectively.
Commercially, it is available in the forms of 200 mcg, 400 mcg, 500 mcg, and 600 mcg. Depending on the condition for which chromium is used, daily intake is 200 – 1500 mcg in divided doses.
Chromium is considered safe for most adults when taking low doses. However, higher doses consumers may experience lightheaded, skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and mood changes.
Chromium may demonstrate the following interactions:
- Insulin and anti – diabetic medications: chromium increases their effects.
- Levothyroxine: chromium decreases its absorption, and they should be taken 3 – 4 hours apart.
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Ibuprofen (Advil), indomethacin (Indocin), naproxen, diclofenac, piroxicam and aspirin. These medications may increase blood levels of chromium.
- Corticosteroids: they may lower chromium level.
- Calcium carbonate – containing antacids, nexium, and omeprazole: they lower chromium absorption and they should be taken 2 – 4 hours apart.