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An essential trace mineral, chromium is needed by the body in only small amounts. Nonetheless, it plays a significant role in nutrition. While vital for a number of different bodily processes, chromium is most valuable in controlling glucose levels. Due to this fact, chromium has found significant favor among those looking to improve the blood sugar levels of diabetics. It has even been suggested that chromium may be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease. A superior form of chromium picolinate is a bidendate chelate with picolinic acid. This is because research has suggested that chromium picolinate is the natural form of chromium in living things. If chromium picolinate is the form your body uses, it only makes sense for you to take that form.

Glucose Regulator
Part of the reason that chromium is labeled an essential mineral is the vital role it plays in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Chromium works like a key to unlock the hormone insulin, allowing it to travel throughout the body controlling blood sugar, building proteins, and performing all of its other duties. Insufficient quantities of chromium in your body -a condition that affects most North Americans- may cause some of the scourges of modern living: high blood sugar and high cholesterol.

Insulin itself plays a vital role in the process of glucose regulation. Without insulin, glucose cannot exit the bloodstream and enter the body's cells. Chromium helps the process along by acting as a cofactor to insulin, "unlocking the door" to the cell member, thus allowing glucose to cross the cell membrane and enter the cell. How chromium does this isn't necessarily known, but we do know that previous models are inaccurate. It used to be thought that chromium was first converted into a chemical called glucose tolerance factor (GTF). However, it was later discovered that GTF was inadvertently created during the process of chemical analysis -and that there is actually no such thing as GTF. Effectively, some foods that were previously thought to be superior sources of chromium due to their supposed quantities of GTF are not necessarily better foods for obtaining chromium.

Chromium's Role In Diabetes
As chromium picolinate has been shown to have a beneficial effect on glucose regulation, some studies have tested whether it can have similar benefits for those suffering from diabetes, abnormal blood sugar levels, or some other sort of impaired insulin function. The results of these studies have been positive. Several small, double-blind trials have suggested that chromium picolinate supplementation may help those with type II diabetes or abnormal blood sugar. One such trial studying overweight people at risk of developing diabetes found that chromium helped the body respond better to insulin. Another randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that chromium supplementation shortens QTc interval which, when prologned, is a powerful predictor of total mortality, cardiac death, and future stroke in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Multiple studies have been carried out on those with diabetes, showing marked improvements in blood sugar levels.

• In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 180 people with type II diabetes were given a daily regime of either a placebo, 200 mcg of chromium picolinate or 1000 mcg of chromium picolinate. Both groups taking chromium showed improvement in blood sugar, with those in the higher dosage group showing significantly more. The placebo group showed no improvement.

• A placebo-controlled study of 30 women with pregnancy-related diabetes found that supplementation with 4 or 8 mcg of chromium picolinate for each kilogram of body weight resulted in significantly improved blood sugar control.

• Chromium may also be helpful for treating diabetes caused by corticosteroid treatment.

Heart Disease Prevention
Since insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels appear to be risk factors for heart disease, some scientists have found that higher chromium intake lowered the risk of heart attack. These studies coincide with some authorities' characterization of "metabolic syndrome X." Syndrome X is the combination of impaired blood sugar control, high cholesterol, weight gain, and high blood pressure, all of which contribute heavily to heart disease. While the existence of syndrome X is itself controversial, chromium picolinate has been indicated as a partial remedy for at least the first condition. However this first condition, namely stabilized blood sugar levels, is arguably the single most important factor of syndrome X due to its intrinsic effects on the other factors of cholesterol, weight gain, and blood pressure.

Even though chromium is an essential mineral, we still do know exactly how large an amount we can take before toxicity becomes an issue. This is of particular concern because chromium, despite being needed by our bodies, is a heavy metal and rare cases associated with excess intake have been reported at doses as low as 600 mcg. However, these problems are quite rare, and can possibly be attributed to other health factors, such as liver or kidney disease, which may have predisposed the affected individuals towards such a reaction. One last concern with chromium supplementation lies in preliminary, in vitro studies that found chromium picolinate to cause genetic damage to cells. While nothing conclusive has been proven against chromium regarding toxicity levels, it is nonetheless important to be forewarned about its possible risks.

Chromium has only recently been classified as an essential mineral and it's functions in the body are still being studied. Even so, chromium picolinate is essential for proper glucose function and has been shown to provide significant assistance to those struggling to regulate their blood sugar levels. Finally, the connotations for weight loss are also quite overt, making chromium picolinate a useful tool for aesthetic as well as medical purposes. Pursuant to this, chromium picolinate has also been examined by athletes as well, both recreational and competitive. This is due to the fact that maintaining a stable glucose level is paramount in any endurance sport, especially one requiring periodic bursts of anaerobic activity.

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