You may be surprised to learn that the essential mineral chromium, despite having clear effects on stabilising blood sugar, reducing carb cravings and improving mood, still has no Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) . This is partly because it is needed in relatively small amounts, 50¬μg (micrograms), which is ten thousand times less than magnesium (500 milligrams), and this makes it extraordinarily difficult to study.
However, it makes it no less important for health, especially for those with metabolic syndrome related disorders such as diabetes, dementia and depression. For these conditions chromium, at a dose of 500 or 600mcg is highly effective, but at lower doses, below 200mcg, the amount in most chromium supplements, it is not. For example, a study in 2015 gave 71, type-2 diabetics 600mcg or a placebo for four months. Both fasting and post-meal glucose levels reduced substantially, as did the long-term measure of blood sugar, HbA1c.
Reviews of studies giving 400mcg plus show consistent benefits, but studies of 200mcg or less do not. A 2007 review of over 40 randomised controlled trials in Diabetes Care, reported the same benefits, but only in doses of 400-1000mcg per day. There are no known side effects at levels of up to 100 times greater than this, according to the UK’s Committee on Toxicity.
Another area where the dose makes the difference is depression. People who feel tired and groggy much of the time, can’t get out of bed, could sleep ‘forever’ and are prone to depression and feelings of low self-esteem, are common symptoms of what’s called ‘atypical’ depression. This is, in fact, becoming half of all those depressed, mainly affecting younger women and girls. 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. The results were dramatic: seven of the ten taking chromium showed a large improvement, as opposed to none on the placebo.
A larger trial 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% receiving a placebo. What’s more, the benefit is usually experienced within three days. Chromium works fast.
Two other studies have reported significant mood improvements: one giving chromium to women with premenstrual mood disorders and another to women prone to binge eating. Both reported clear benefits. The second found ‘greater reductions in bingeing, weight, and depression’ with chromium versus placebo.
Chromium is very popular because sugar addicts find that it cuts cravings. Consequently, you eat less and lose more weight. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2008 randomly assigned 42 overweight adult women with carbohydrate cravings to receive chromium or placebo for 8 weeks. Chromium, as compared to placebo, reduced food intake, hunger levels, cravings and decreased body weight. A review of six studies involving different doses from 200 to 1000¬μg noted a modest effect on body weight loss of over 1kg, compared to placebo, over 12 to 16 weeks. Again, the higher dose studies had better results.
Despite being naturally present in foods such as beer, whole grains, cheese, liver, and meat, the typical intake in a western diet provides only 28-35¬μg. In addition to the problem of low consumption due to eating refined and processed foods (white flour has 98% of its chromium removed, as does sugar), it has been shown that typical western diets high in refined food such as white bread, cakes, sweets and biscuits increase chromium losses because it is used up more rapidly in those with yo-yoing blood sugar.
There is some debate about the best form of chromium. Is it chromium picolinate, or chromium polynicotinate (chromium polynicotinate contains vitamin B3 which is works in synergy with chromium)? Both appear to be effective and better than another form, chromium chloride. It also works synergistically with cinnamon, another natural way to keep your blood sugar balanced, along with a lower carb, low glycaemic load (GL) diet.
PS: A fully referenced version of this article is available in your Library in the Report entitled Chromium – The Evidence