What exactly is Chromium?
Chromium is an essential mineral that is needed by the body in ‘trace’ amounts. Since the body does not produce it, chromium must be obtained through food.
Chromium is important for several functions in the body.
It is part of a molecule called Chromodulin, which helps the hormone insulin perform its role. Chromium supports the role of insulin, which is a hormone that is critical for the absorption and storage of glucose (blood sugar). Chromium works with insulin to help the body use blood sugar and may also be involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Chromium helps in the maintaining of normal blood sugar (which may help to reduce sugar cravings) and insulin levels and also supports the maintenance of adequate cholesterol levels.
Modern food processing decreases the chromium levels in food.
Chromium and fertility
Chromium may help improve fertility in people with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome), as it is thought to help to lower insulin levels and as result, testosterone levels are lowered. Insulin resistance is a core condition in PCOS and greatly contributes to hormonal imbalances that cause many PCOS symptoms.
It is important to ensure that sugar and insulin levels are managed carefully as increased testosterone levels in women do not help those with PCOS.
A 2006 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that chromium picolinate supplements improved blood sugar levels by 38 percent in women with PCOS. There have been other studies to confirm that this supplement does improve blood sugar levels in those with PCOS. More studies are needed into the role of Chromium and weight loss though.
Good food sources of chromium include:
- Green Beans
- Brewers yeast
- Whole grains
- Bran cereal
- Sweet Potatoes
- Lean meat
- Black pepper
Since B vitamins and vitamin C can also help to boost the absorbability of the chromium you are taking in, it might be worthwhile also trying to increase your intake of these essential vitamins too!
Please note: If you eat a good diet that is nutrient-dense with plenty of fruit and vegetables – you should be getting enough Chromium each day. It is always a good idea to check with your G.P or qualified Nutritional Therapist before taking chromium supplements (or suddenly adding new supplements) pre-conception. This is especially important if you are currently taking insulin sensitising drugs.
By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapist)