Plenty of trace elements are found in the human diet, and many of them play an important role in nutrition and the functioning of the body. Chromium is one such element. Chromium picolinate is a form of chromium present in dietary supplements. While its exact mode of action and long-term effects are not well understood, some of its benefits have been documented, and many more are being researched.
Insulin and Weight Gain
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas in order to control the level of sugar in the blood. Without it, blood sugar levels would spike out of control. Diabetes results when the pancreas does not produce adequate insulin levels, or the insulin produced is not able to control sugar levels because of a condition called insulin resistance. Overweight people tend to have insulin resistance and develop Type 2 diabetes. Chromium picolinate is a dietary supplement that may help this condition.
Chromium picolinate is a trace element that may help in the functioning of insulin, although its structure and exact function is not very well understood. Some theories suggest that chromium increases the permeability of cells in order to allow blood glucose. Other theories suggest that chromium has an effect on other hormones that regulate insulin activity.
Interaction with Nutrients
Chromium picolinate competes with iron in the bloodstream. However, increased levels of chromium picolinate did not decrease blood iron concentrations in people who consumed moderate levels of it. In people with hereditary conditions that cause an abnormally high level of blood iron, chromium action is lower. Some observational studies also seem to point to an increase in chromium absorption if given in conjunction with vitamin C.
A form of chromium, called hexavalent chromium, is known to cause cancer. However, the form of chromium in food and dietary supplements is different. It is called trivalent chromium. Like any other element on Earth, excess trivalent chromium may be toxic if consumed in abnormally high levels. Moderate levels of trivalent chromium have not been shown to be toxic. Rare cases have been reported of kidney and liver damage from too much trivalent chromium in persons with underlying kidney and liver disease.
Much research has yet to be conducted on the effects of chromium on the human body. This is because chromium is an element that is already present in many foods, so increasing the amount of it in the diet is only equivalent to eating more of certain foods. It is not adding something new to the diet. Nonetheless, as diabetes and obesity become more prevalent, research into chromium and other elements and their effects on health will be forthcoming.