Beef, beer, black pepper, bran, brewer’s yeast, cheese, chicken, clams, corn oil, liver,
meat, mushrooms, poultry, shellfish, thyme, wheat germ, whole-grain cereals.
Chromium assists in the breakdown and distribution of proteins and carbohydrates in the
body. It is also essential for the production of an enzyme-like substance called Glucose Tolerance
Factor or GTF (chromium combined with nicotinic acid and amino acids), which aids in the making
and proper utilization of insulin; this insulin, in turn, takes carbohydrates from the blood and gets
them to the brain cells, which use them for energy. It is believed that sufficient amounts keep the
blood sugar on a consistent level, preventing mood swings, depression, and adultonset diabetes, and
providing energy throughout the day. Chromium picolinate is a scientifically developed form whichappears to be more efficient than regular chromium; it may also have a mild muscle-building effect
on people with a regular exercise program. Chromium picolinate, as well as chromium polynicotinate
and chromium chloride, can inhibit sugar-induced high blood pressure. The picolinate and
polynicotinate forms (the latter sold under the brand name Chrome-Mate) also act as antioxidants.
Deficiency (which may be very widespread in the U.S. population) can lead to diabetes mellitus
(though this condition may result from a chromiumpoor diet that is deficient in other minerals, too)
and arteriosclerosis (though chromium’s exact role in this is not yet clear). Refined sugar should be
avoided for three reasons: it has been stripped of its chromium (along with the magnesium), it
requires chromium to metabolize it, and it causes a loss of chromium through the urine.
Some people cannot convert chromium chloride or chromium from chelated
supplements into the “biologically active” form, or GTF, that the body can use, in which case
chromium should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision, especially in cases of those who are
diabetic. Chromium salts, which are an inorganic form of chromium, do not seem to be absorbed by
the body very well and so are of little use as supplements. As people get older, they retain less of this
mineral in their bodies. A few more things should be kept in mind: cases of allergies to this mineral
have been reported; and the chromium content of brewer’s yeast, though often high, varies among
brands. There are no known symptoms of toxicity, attributable, perhaps, to the low absorption rate
(about 2 percent of intake); however, ulceration of the nasal tissues and toxic levels can occur with
long-time exposure in workers who deal with chromium in metal plating or making dyes. There is
one case of a false-positive reading for a test of porphyria in a man who took one-third of an ounce a
day. Chromium supplements should not be taken at the same time as vanadium supplements, as there
could be a negative interaction between them. Chromium picolinate’s reputation as a muscle-building
nutrient may be overrated, its effect possibly due to the fact that subjects may have been deficient in
chromium to begin with. One study in 1996 showed that chromium picolinate caused chromosome
damage in cells that had been grown in a laboratory; what this means for individuals taking the
supplement is, as yet, undetermined.
The RDA has not yet been established. Studies seem to indicate that 200 meg/day for
women is a good dose; athletes and those who exercise heavily — male or female — may need up to
400 meg/day (though Dr. Stuart Berger recommends only 40 meg/day for those who exercise at least
5 times a week). Some recommend no more than 200 meg/day on the basis that no adequate research
has been conducted on levels higher than that. Studies on lab animals have shown, however, that it
might take a dose of several thousand times the recommended dosage to produce adverse side effects.