Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts, although its mechanisms of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimal health are not well defined. It is found primarily in two forms: 1) trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food, and 2) hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution.
Chromium is required for numerous functions in the body, including glucose and fat metabolism. It also helps insulin to work efficiently within the body.
Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia studied the effects of chromium picolinate on diabetic nephropathy, or kidney disease as a result of diabetes. Diabetic mice were on a diet with or without chromium picolinate supplementation for six months. At the end of the study, which was presented at the 2010 American Physiological Society Conference, scientists observed that the diabetic mice with chromium picolinate had lower levels of protein in the urine, an indicator of kidney disease, compared with the mice without chromium picolinate.
Chromium citrate is a combination of the essential trace element chromium, plus citrate (a Krebbs Cycle intermediate). The citrate is added as a chelating agent. Chelation [key-lay-tion] agents allow ions to pass through cellular membranes far more easily by neutralizing their positive or negative forces.
Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. In 1957, a compound in brewers’ yeast was found to prevent an age-related decline in the ability of rats to maintain normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. Chromium was identified as the active ingredient in this so-called “glucose tolerance factor” in 1959.
Chromium also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, but more research is needed to determine the full range of its roles in the body. The challenges to meeting this goal include:
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): Average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals; often used to plan nutritionally adequate diets for individuals.
Adequate Intake (AI): Intake at this level is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy; established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA.
Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): Average daily level of intake estimated to meet the requirements of 50% of healthy individuals; usually used to assess the nutrient intakes of groups of people and to plan nutritionally adequate diets for them; can also be used to assess the nutrient intakes of individuals.
Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): Maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.