Chromium: Shed pounds, balance blood sugar, and defy aging with this multipurpose mineral
How do you feel, physically, compared to 10 years ago? Better? Worse? The same? If you’re past your 20s and in the “better” or “same” category, that’s good. If you’re a few decades older and those are still your answers, that’s even better. Chromium can help you maintain that healthy trend.
“When you take chromium, you’re probably reducing fasting glucose levels and, at the same time, insulin levels, and that’s important for your long-term health,” says Harry Preuss, MD, a professor at Georgetown University who has studied chromium for decades.
We know that elevated levels of blood sugar can lead to diabetes, but, explains Preuss, they do much more. In fact, he says, blood sugar is a more reliable marker of risk for heart disease and other age-related decline than cholesterol, blood pressure, and other more familiar risk factors, because high blood sugar underlies these other signs.
The tendency to gain weight as we get older is another common symptom. Although eating and exercise play a key role in preventing weight gain, they aren’t enough for many people, and that’s where chromium can be a useful tool.
The Weight Gain Trigger
Sugars and starches are the drivers of blood sugar. When it goes up, the human body produces insulin to enable the blood sugar to be used as energy. The longer we live, the less efficient this basic mechanism becomes because our sensitivity to insulin declines, creating “insulin resistance.” To compensate, our bodies produce more insulin, and these higher insulin levels increase fat storage. Consequently, eating the same food at age 40 as you did at age 20 is likely to produce weight gain. Chromium tempers rises in blood sugar and insulin release, and over a period of weeks or months, will make a beneficial difference.
A review of 15 studies, published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, found that chromium reduced chronically high levels of blood sugar, as well as spikes after meals. Altogether, there were more than 1,600 people with diabetes in these trials, all of which tested chromium picolinate, a specific form of the supplement.
In another study, published in Nutrition Journal, Preuss and his colleagues tested the effect of chromium when healthy people drank a sugar solution. The supplement significantly reduced increases in both blood sugar and insulin levels.
How to Use Chromium
Preuss recommends taking 200 mcg daily, but cautions that not all forms are equally bioavailable. Chromium chloride, in particular, is not well absorbed. Forms that have been designed for good absorption, and have been studied, include chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, chromium histidinate, chromium dinicocysteinate (Zychrome on labels), and chromium chelavite. Some supplements contain more than one form of chromium.
Editors’ Product Picks
Jarrow FormulasChromium GTF
The Vitamin ShoppeChromax Chromium Picolinate
Baker’s Yeast Protects Kids
Wellmune, a patented baker’s yeast extract found in numerous supplements, reduces the incidence of upper respiratory infections in children between the ages of 1 and 4. A study of 174 children, presented at a scientific conference of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, found that 35 mg or 75 mg of the extract, taken daily, was an effective dose. Earlier research has shown that Wellmune improves overall immune function among adults.
3 New Reasons to Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
We know that the fiber in legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains keeps us regular, but recent studies have uncovered some other—perhaps surprising—benefits.
- Better sleep: High-fiber foods increase the amount of deep, restorative sleep during the night. Even one day of low-fiber intake, combined with high-fat foods, may reduce quality of sleep, according to research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
- Healthier lungs: At the University of Nebraska Medical Center, researchers found that people with the highest fiber intake have the healthiest lungs and the lowest risk for lung disease.
- Less breast cancer: Women who eat high-fiber foods during their teens and 20s have up to 24 percent less risk for the disease, according to research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Previous studies have found that high-fiber foods also reduce risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Popular Diets Demystified
Confused by buzzwords that describe popular diets? Check these out.
What is it?
Where to learn more
Short for “ketogenic,” the diet is high in
Short for “Paleolithic,” an ancient era when humans were hunter-gatherers and didn’t eat grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, or refined foods.
Eating no gluten, be it in grains with natural gluten content or processed foods with added gluten for texture or mouth feel.
Eating no foods derived from animals,
Fish Oil Helps Schizophrenia
A six-month study in Poland found that 2.2 grams daily of omega-3 fats from fish oil supplements decreased the intensity of symptoms among many people suffering their first episode of schizophrenia. The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, compared fish oil with a placebo among 71 patients suffering from the condition. Other research has found that fish oil helps relieve depression and bipolar disorder.
Dairy Myth, Busted!
Government and medical experts typically consider low-fat and non-fat versions of dairy products to be the healthiest, but this notion isn’t supported by science. By looking at the diets and overall health of more than 15,000 people, researchers in Brazil found that only full-fat dairy products protect health. The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that people eating full-fat (but not low-fat) dairy had lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stubborn weight gain.
Aged Garlic Extract Reverses Heart Disease
“We have completed four randomized studies, and they have led us to conclude that Aged Garlic Extract can help slow the progression of atherosclerosis and reverse the early stages of heart disease,” says Matthew Budoff, MD, of LA BioMed, a non-profit research institute in Southern California. His latest study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that compared to a placebo, 2,400 mg daily of Aged Garlic Extract slowed the growth of arterial plaque by 80 percent in one year and reduced levels of certain types of existing plaque.