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Chromium - little known, seldom used, but very essential to health.

Chromium, like iron, calcium and zinc, is a mineral that is absolutely essential to human health. Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that nine out of ten Americans do not get enough chromium in their diets. There are several reasons for this. Plants do not require chromium in order to thrive so we cannot be sure that chromium will be available in the plant foods that we regularly consume.

In addition, the refining, preserving and cooking of foods frequently reduce the chromium content. Other studies have shown that the high sugar diet consumed by many Americans causes a reduction in the availability of chromium. Stress is also a factor which causes the body to lose chromium.

The best food sources of nutritional chromium are not high on the menu of most people: brewer's yeast, black pepper, and wheat germ. Smaller amounts occur in grains, cereals and a few vegetables.

As a rough guide one can figure that 1000 calories of particular foods will yield about 13 micrograms of chromium. This is far short of the 50-200 micrograms a day recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Richard Anderson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, "Dietary intake of chromium is suboptimal. This is exacerbated by increased chromium losses due to stress and certain refined foods, including simple sugars, that enhance chromium losses. Supplemental chromium is associated with improvements of risk factors associated with maturity-onset diabetes and cardiovascular diseases."

Picolinic Acid Is Discovered

In the late 1970s, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture were trying to determine how metals was assimilated by the body. They discovered that picolinic acid, produced in the liver and kidney, combined with ions of essential metals to carry them into our cells and tissues where they were needed. The heightened assimilability of chromium picolinate proved to have a powerful effect on improving the function of insulin, an important hormone.

During the 1980s, research studies proved the value of chromium picolinate. At Mercy Hospital in San Diego, patients with diabetes experienced a beneficial lowering of elevated blood sugar while taking 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate a day. Another study at the hospital showed that the harmful cholesterol in the body was reduced while the beneficial form of cholesterol was increased.

Since insulin is involved in the metabolism of protein, a follow-up study was conducted to determine the effect of chromium on the building of muscle tissue. A group of athletes taking chromium picolinate achieved a significantly larger development of muscle than those not receiving chromium. In an unexpected "side effect," they also achieved a reduction in body fat.

In the meantime, other proven benefits can be achieved with chromium picolinate supplementation: -- reduced blood sugar in diabetics -- lowered cholesterol and reduced risk of heart disease -- improved physical appearance through fat reduction and added muscle

Advocates of the product do not claim that it is the "magic bullet" that will solve all problems. Those using it for weight control are also advised to reduce the amount of fat in their diet, add high fiber foods, and get a reasonable amount of exercise for overall physical improvement.

Because of the improvement in insulin function, less insulin may be required. Diabetics are advised to consult with their physician when taking chromium supplements.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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