Chromium is a trace mineral, meaning that the body requires it in small amounts, but many people are still deficient in this nutrient because of poor diets, especially high intakes of refined carbohydrates.
Chromium is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Evidence suggests that it reduces cravings and food binges, regulates blood sugar and evens out appetite. As a result, chromium is linked to aiding weight loss and studies suggest that it enhances fat burning.
The main function of chromium is to boost the activity of insulin - namely, promoting glycogen storage in muscles, enhancing protein synthesis, and stimulating fat formation in tissues.
Chromium enhances the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. A study in 1957 found that a compound in brewers' yeast was found to prevent an age-related decline in the ability of rats to maintain normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. Chromium was identified as the active ingredient in this so-called "glucose tolerance factor".
Chromium enhances insulin's potency, thereby decreasing the total amount of insulin the body needs to produce. This leads to lower insulin levels, meaning less fat is produced and deposited onto existing fat.
Because chromium is needed for insulin to function properly, and because it controls blood sugar levels, it is also part of the body's protection against diabetes.
Sources of Chromium
Chromium is difficult to absorb and only around 0.5 per cent of what's eaten is actually retained in the body. Chromium is best absorbed if taken with Vitamin C. Diets high in sugar can also increase chromium excretion from the body, leading to deficiency, especially if chromium intakes are already low.
Boost your chromium intake by eating:
Beef, chicken, whole grain bread, eggs, peppers, nuts and beans.
- Mertz W. Chromium occurrence and function in biological systems. Physiol Rev 1969;49:163-239.
- Mertz W. Chromium in human nutrition: a review. J Nutr 1993;123:626-33.
- Mertz W. Interaction of chromium with insulin: a progress report. Nutr Rev 1998;56:174-7. Schwarz K, Mertz W. Chromium(III) and the glucose tolerance factor. Arch Biochem Biophys 1959;85:292-5.