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The Truth About Chromium Will Surprise You

Chromium has been touted as an incredible diet pill with amazing benefits. Yet in a recent article in the New York Times, a preliminary study suggests chromium can lead to chromosomal damage. So what is the truth about chromium? It might surprise you.

Your Body Needs chromium

Chromium is important because it helps maintain blood-sugar levels, which reduces sugar cravings. It also helps prevent fat from being stored. This is where the "amazing diet pill" idea comes in.

What chromium actually does is help regulate insulin. After you cat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, insulin is released into the bloodstream. Insulin's job is to give muscles and organs permission to access sugar in the bloodstream. When too much insulin is drawn out of the blood, blood-sugar levels plummet (this is called hypoglycemia). We know it as sugar cravings and the "mid-afternoon blahs." And those sugar cravings lead to eventual weight gain if we give in. What chromium does is help insulin do its job and keep the blood-sugar levels even.

Ninety Percent of Americans Don't Get Enough Chromium

Where can you get chromium? Brewers yeast, whole-grain breads, meats, cheese, eggs, bananas, and spinach. Yet even when people eat exceptionally well, their chromium intake may be low. In fact, a 1985 study found that more than 90% of U.S. diets contained less than the minimum recommended daily allowance of chromium. Foods high in simple sugars which are highly refined are not good sources of chromium.

Chromium Is Chromium

What's the difference between chromium picolinate, asparatate, and nicotinate? Mostly, it's just the way the chromium is bound for chelation. For, example, picolinic acid is chemically very similar to niacin or nicotinic acid (chromium GTF). The binding only enhances the dietary uptake of chromium.

The Study Is Not Explained Correctly

The Times article, by Jane Brody, discussed the results of a study done by researchers at Dartmouth College and George Washington University. The actual study was published later in The FASEB Journal. First, Brody's statements that "reasonable" doses were used is not erectly accurate. The minimum amount of chromium picolinate that could can chromosomal damage in hamster-cell cultures was over three thousand times higher than the blood-chromium concentration measured during suggested chromium picolinate supplementation. According to Leigh Broadhurts, Ph.D., a scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville Md. says "In fact, it is a testament to the safety of chromium picolinate that such a tremendous overdose is required to demonstrate clastogenicity."

To demonstrate how unreasonable the amount is, consider this: the recommended daily usage is 200 mcg, and a bottle of 90 would cost at least $5. To go up to the level of the study's tests, a person would have to take $175 worth of chromium a day. That's $5250 a month, or $63,000 a year.

The Truth About Chromium

The truth about chromium is that it is a supplement that we all need (but we definitely don't need to spend $63,000 a year on the stuff). The best decision you can make is to be informed on all supplements. Know the facts, and seek the whole truth.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1985; 41: 1177-83.
Clinical Physiology and Biochemistry, 1986; 4:31-41.
J. Animal Sci., 1995; 73: 457-65.