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Chromium: It May Help Prevent Heart Attacks, Improve Cholesterol & Much More ... So Are You Getting

Chromium is an essential mineral that we all need -- in trace amounts -- to help maintain normal blood sugar, insulin and cholesterol levels. However, many Americans -- some say up to 25 percent of the population -- may be deficient in this nutrient, primarily because modern food processing strips away much of the chromium that naturally occurs in commonly eaten foods.

The nation's obsession with highly processed junk food may be contributing to a chromium deficiency in many Americans.

Chromium Prevents Heart Attacks

Among the newest research revealing the importance of getting enough chromium is a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers, published in the July 15, 2005 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Based on a study of chromium levels of 684 men who had previously had a myocardial infarction, it was found that low levels of chromium were linked to an increased risk of heart attack. Specifically:

  • The men in the study had, on average, 15 percent lower chromium levels than men in a control group who had never had a heart attack.

  • Those with the highest chromium levels were 35 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those with the lowest levels.

"These results add to an increasing body of evidence that points to the importance of chromium for cardiovascular health," the researchers said. They pointed out that some evidence suggests many Americans may not be getting adequate amounts of chromium.

Beneficial for Cholesterol Levels

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that chromium significantly lowers cholesterol levels. Among 300 patients, those receiving chromium had cholesterol reductions of 20 points, on average.

Several other clinical studies also suggest that chromium is useful for lowering bad LDL cholesterol while raising the good (HDL) kind.

Control Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

Chromium is the active component of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which, primarily, increases the action of insulin. When blood glucose levels begin to rise after a meal, insulin is secreted by the pancreas. The insulin lowers glucose levels in your blood by increasing the rate at which glucose enters your cells.

In order for this to happen, insulin must attach to receptors on the surface of the cells, and GTF is thought to initiate this process.

Why Many Americans May be Deficient

Although you can get all the chromium you need from a healthy diet, many Americans eat a diet that focuses on processed junk foods or other highly refined foods. If this applies to you, you may not be receiving enough chromium.

Food that is highly processed does not retain its naturally occurring chromium. It is therefore essential to eat fresh, chromium-rich foods (see below). Chromium deficiency can lead to:

  • Insulin resistance

  • Elevated blood levels of insulin (hyperinsulinemia)

  • Elevated blood levels of glucose

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Syndrome X (a collection of symptoms including hyperinsulinemia, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar and low HDL cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease)

Are You Getting Enough?

A salad with romaine lettuce, raw onion and tomato is packed with chromium.

Although there is no official recommended daily allowance for chromium, the National Institutes of Health say normal daily recommended intakes are generally as follows:

  • Birth to 3 years of age: 10 to 80 micrograms (mcg) a day.

  • 4 to 6 years of age: 30 to 120 mcg a day.

  • 7 to 10 years of age: 50 to 200 mcg a day.

  • Adolescents and adults: 50 to 200 mcg a day.

However, certain conditions can increase the excretion of chromium from your body, which therefore increases the amount of chromium your body needs to take in. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Physical injury or trauma

  • Mental stress

If you'd like to be sure you are getting enough chromium in your daily diet, you should strive to include some of the following foods, which are all good sources:

  • Romaine lettuce

  • Onions (raw)

  • Tomatoes (raw)

  • Brewer's yeast

  • Oysters

  • Liver

Recommended Reading

Cadmium Poisoning, Which Can Harm Your Kidneys and Reduce Your Bone Density, Surprisingly High

Proteins That Kill: Will Prions Be the 21st Century AIDS?


Low Chromium Associated With Raised Heart Attack Risk

The World's Healthiest Foods: Chromium

Whole Health MD: Chromium

Medline Plus: Chromium Supplements

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