Chromium - the wonder mineral for hypoglaecemia

If there was undeniable proof that a nutrient reduced hunger, cut cravings for sugar, helped you lose weight, prevented and reversed diabetes and improved your mood, with no possible toxicity, would you take it? Well there is and that nutrient is the mineral chromium.

Chromium works by improving sensitivity to insulin, which in turn reduces appetite, energy dips and sugar and fat cravings, thereby helping weight loss. That's the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics.(1)

Chromium and diabetes

Insulin resistance is thought to affect one in four non-obese people in Britain, and the vast majority of overweight people. But chromium has been found to be so effective at improving insulin sensitivity that it's given to diabetics, with amazing results - in some studies it has even reversed diabetes.

A low dietary intake of chromium is associated with an increased risk for Type-2 diabetes. The average diet provides about 30mcg, and the more refined the food choices, the lower the chromium intake as it's found in whole foods. Even with a good diet, you're unlikely to eat more than 60mcg. That's a tenth of what's needed to impact diabetes.

For example, a study in 1999 followed over 800 diabetics who were taking insulin or diabetes drugs.(2)Patients were given 500mcg chromium per day for ten months, resulting in a major improvement in both fasting blood-sugar levels and blood-sugar levels after meals. Some 90% of patients also experienced decreased diabetic symptoms, including fatigue, thirst and frequent urination.

A recent review of over 40 randomised controlled trials published in Diabetes Care found that giving Type-2 diabetics chromium improved their fasting blood sugar levels and also decreased glycosylated haemoglobin levels, which is the best long-term measure of blood sugar balance.(3) The most impressive effects were seen with doses of 400-1000mcg per day. Despite this level being about ten times higher than you'll get from a so-called well balanced diet, chromium has no toxicity or side-effects at these doses (10,000mcg is toxic), other than better energy and weight control.(4)

Chromium and depression

Chromium is also excellent for sufferers of 'atypical' depression. It's a strange name for a type of depression associated with excessive sleepiness, carb cravings and weight gain - and thought to account for up to 40% of depression cases. In a double-blind study published in Biological Psychiatry, ten patients suffering from atypical depression were given 600mcg of chromium daily, and five others a placebo, for eight weeks, with dramatic results.(5) Seven of the ten taking chromium showed a big improvement, as opposed to none on the placebo. A larger trial in 2005 at Cornell University in the US, involving 113 participants, mirrored these findings. After eight weeks, 65% of those taking chromium experienced a major improvement, compared to 33% on placebos.(6)

How much do you need?

Most studies showing improvements in glucose control have used over 400mcg a day, although improvements in insulin sensitivity occur in people taking just 200mcg a day. Chromium supplements usually contain 200mcg, but in relation to diabetes, a daily intake of 400 to 600mcg is more likely to be effective. I've not found it necessary to have more than this. I recommend taking chromium in the morning and at lunch, as it can be over-stimulating if taken in the evening.

What form should you take it in?

There is some debate about the best form of chromium. Both chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate (which contains vitamin B3 as this works in synergy with chromium) appear to be effective and better than chromium chloride, used in some cheaper supplements.

So, the proof IS out there - the question is why isn't everybody taking it?