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Chromium: An Essential Mineral We Need

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By Author: Steven Schechter, N.D. • • July 1, 1995

Chromium is an essential trace mineral required by humans for health. Involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, it also stimulates the activity of enzyme involved in the metabolism of glucose (blood sugar) for energy and the synthesis of healthy fatty acids and cholesterol. Chromium increases the effectiveness of the hormone insulin and its ability to regulate glucose, preventing hypoglycemia or diabetes. Chromium is involved in the transport of protein in the blood. It is also involved in the synthesis of protein.

Chromium Functions

Chromium is best known to help reduce body fat and increase lean body muscle mass. It can help metabolize fat and put on lean muscle mass-thus improving physique. Recent studies also suggest a universally promising benefit that can significantly increase both medium and maximum life span in test mammals.

Numerous scientific studies suggest that chromium can also help regulate glucose levels and is especially effective for Type II diabetes by controlling glucose levels. Chromium may also help lower elevated cholesterol and improve the ratio of the more desirable HDL to LDL cholesterol (lipoproteins).

Another significant benefit of chromium-especially a niacin-bound chromium- can be helping to prevent it cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer in America today. On the average, someone dies of CVD every 32 seconds and, according to the American Heart Association, more than 25 % of Americans suffer from some form of CVD.

Scientific studies published in the New England Journal of medicine and other prestigious medical journals confirm that controlling cholesterol levels saves lives and reduces the rate of death due to CVD.

Niacin has been acclaimed as an effective controller of cholesterol. Even the American Medical Association proclaimed that niacin diminishes risk factors associated with heart disease. The amount of niacin, though, required to lower cholesterol levels can unfortunately cause serious side effects.

Researchers have recently found that chromium bound to a small amount of niacin produces the desired cholesterol- lowering results and therefore shows significant potential in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Studies and Sources

Several scientific studies and clinical trials, such as a recent study by Dr. Robert Lefavi at Georgia Southern University, show that 200 mcg chromium bound to only 2 mg of niacin lowered harmful LDL cholesterol and improved total cholesterol / RDL ratios. This study shows that chromium and niacin work synergistically or complement and enhance one another; and that only small amounts of niacin are necessary, therefore avoiding the risk of harmful side effects of large amounts of niacin. This and other studies also illustrate the significant therapeutic uses of niacin-bound chromium for preventing or treating CVD, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, hypertension, blood clots and other disorders.

Chromium may very well produce additional therapeutic benefits besides the ones described above. Research and clinical studies are currently being conducted on the possibility of chromium benefiting calcium/ bone metabolism, cellular immunity, the growth of carcinogen-induced tumors, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, glycemic control of Type II diabetes and increased longevity. Much, though not all, of the data from these studies should be available within six months. Unfortunately, chromium is difficult to absorb from food. Measuring the chromium content of food can often be misleading because of the different forms in which chromium occurs and their varying absorption rates by your body. Only about 3% of dietary chromium is retained in your body. Inorganic chromium is only 1% or less absorbable.

Chromium Deficiency

Even a slight chromium deficiency can have serious effects on your body. In athletes, it can inhibit energy production and muscle development. In the elderly and in mothers, it can lead to hypoglycemia or adult( onset diabetes (Type II).

A lack of biologically active chromium has been linked to heart disease, obesity and other disorders as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture studies, as reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1985), nine out of ten Americans are deficient and get less than 50 mcg daily of chromium. Chromium is lost during food processing. The common high-sugar and refined carbohydrate American diet is not only deficient in it, but also causes chromium loss.

All of the above indicate that everyone would benefit from chromium supplementation. Most of the scientific studies on chromium, and most clinical nutritionists and health therapists, recommend that for optimal preventative or therapeutic benefits adults should take 200 to 400 mcg daily.

Chromium has been shown to produce no side effects in amounts of even twice or more this level; but taking more than 600 mcg is not recommended unless you are large or very active physically.

There are two forms of chromium commonly available at health and natural food stores - niacin-bound chromium and chromium picolinate. Both of these forms of chromium are yeast-free and hypoallergenic. The positive effects of dietary supplementation with niacin-bound chromium on bodily functions and composition have been documented [observed] in a minimum of 40 scientific studies, and chromium picolinate has been positively evaluated in at least 13 studies.

Reprinted from Health Foods Business.

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