Have you ever seen those old-fashioned cars that have shiny rims and bumpers that are chrome-plated? Did you know that the human body contains a similar element called chromium that plays a very important role in the correct functioning of your bodily organs and systems?
What is chromium?
Chromium is an element that works together with insulin in the body. It plays a huge role in the control of your blood sugar. It is important that your body keeps your blood sugar nice and controlled because if it drops you will feel pretty bad. Some of the things that you may feel are:
- Dizzy, and
You may even feel like vomiting. Your body will tell you that you are hungry and that you need to eat as soon as possible. When you have eaten, you will almost instantaneously feel better. Chromium did all of this for you.
When you exercise very hard or experience injuries, your body will lose more chromium. The same thing happens if you take in a lot of sugary-foods (like sweets and fizzy cold drinks) instead of starchy or complex foods (like rice, pasta, or bread).
How can I get chromium in my diet?
Food sources that are high in chromium include brewer’s yeast, oysters, liver and potatoes. One cup of cooked broccoli contains 22 μg of chromium! That is why your mom always nagged you to eat your vegetables… Seafood, whole grains, cheese, chicken, meat and bran contain OK levels of chromium.
From what you see above, it makes sense that chromium plays an even bigger role in the diet for people who have diabetes mellitus since it will assist with their blood sugar control.
Most people are unlikely to develop a deficiency in chromium if they follow a balanced diet. However, supplementation of chromium may be helpful in athletes that perform endurance training, since chromium gets lost during exercise. Some research has shown that taking chromium picolinate can increase characteristics of physical fitness, for example, strength, body composition and endurance however this is a controversial topic and needs more research.
Who is susceptible to chromium deficiencies?
People who use antacids, cortisone, beta blockers or proton pump inhibitors may be more susceptible to chromium deficiency since these medications affect the absorption of chromium in the body.
Chromium supplementation may be useful to decrease carbohydrate cravings in people struggling with depression. It is recommended that if you are looking at a multivitamin-mineral supplement try getting one that contains about 21 to 35 μg of chromium and look for a supplement that contains chromium picolinate, which absorbs better.
Try not to exceed intake of more than 120μg a day in supplements, since a continuous high intake of chromium can cause skin lesions. Do not use dichromate or chromic acid, since these are toxic and can cause kidney or liver failure, and even death.
As you’ll find with many things in life, balance is important. This means that you should aim for a varied diet which includes food sources of chromium and avoid over-supplementing with one isolated substance. Add in foods from all food groups in your diet, including starches, dairy, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and meats. Limit intake of refined sugar and fatty food, as well as alcohol.
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