The optimum management of insulin and blood sugar becomes critically important based on recent longevity findings. In two separate large-scale studies of centenarians, it was found that the only common denominator in all of those lucky enough to reach the big 100 was low blood insulin. This complements a raft of earlier studies that have linked calorie restriction to increased longevity. Calorie restriction is linked to lower blood sugar and associated blood insulin. It seems obvious that a deficiency in chromium, the main mineral responsible for insulin and blood sugar management, is likely to seriously impact our chances of joining the exclusive 100 club. It is suggested we need a dietary intake of 50 mcg of chromium, but the modern Western diet delivers less than half of this amount.

Chromium, Blood Sugar and Weight Loss

The founder of the famous low carb diet, Dr Robert Atkins, claimed that 90% of Americans are chromium deficient and he saw this as a major issue, recognising that "chromium is the most pivotal nutrient involved in sugar metabolism". Chromium normalises glucose and insulin levels, lowers LDL cholesterol, raises HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides and there are published papers on all of these functions. There are even studies suggesting that chromium promotes fat loss and lean muscle mass retention, including a comprehensive review of the research published by Dr Richard Anderson in the Nutrition Review in 1998. Dr Anderson, a chemist working with the USDA, is considered the world's foremost authority on the critical role of chromium. So, the entire list of five markers used to diagnose Metabolic Syndrome are impacted by chromium deficiency. This includes abdominal fat, which has been shown to increase the risk of succumbing to the ten degenerative diseases that most commonly claim us, by 500%. It sounds like a good reason to lose the gut, and chromium may be a major player in achieving this arduous task.

How much chromium can we safely take and what form is best?

There is no evidence that naturally-derived chromium can be overdosed. In fact, the most common problem with those supplementing this mineral is that they are often simply not taking enough to make a difference. Research on comparative dose rates has shown that the typical supplementation rate of 200 mcg has not always delivered the benefits found with higher rates. In fact, benefits like the lowering of total cholesterol, triglycerides and the raising of HDL cholesterol were much more prevalent when as much as 1000 mcg was supplemented over the four-month study period (Anderson et al, 1997). Dose rates of 500 – 1000 mcg of chromium picolinate appear to be the most productive, if we are seeking a therapeutic response.

Why are so many of us chromium deficient and how can we boost uptake?
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There are a number of bad habits and dietary practices that can negatively influence the uptake and storage of chromium and magnify excretion. The major contributor to what could be called a plague of chromium deficiency, is over-consumption of carbohydrates and/or simple sugars. There should be no surprise that chromium deficiency is rife when the foundation of the food pyramid is based on carbohydrates and when we are also consuming up to 70 kg of sugar per person, per year. Urinary excretion of chromium has been shown to increase by 100 – 300% when simple sugars are abused. However, chromium uptake is boosted substantially when this mineral is supplemented in conjunction with vitamin C.

There are also other major players in our loss of chromium. Phytic acid in cereal grains and soy milk can be particularly counterproductive. In one study, conducted by Bryson and Goodall, rats fed phytic acid and chromium had much lower blood and tissue levels of chromium than the control. In contrast, the animals feed oxalic acid and chromium had significantly higher levels of this mineral in their blood.

Minerals can also impact chromium uptake and the worst culprit is iron. People with haemochromatosis are notoriously deficient in chromium because the excess iron in their blood competes with chromium binding on the transferase. The iron competes directly with chromium for binding and transportation, and chromium usually comes off second best.

Amino acid complexes have also been shown to increase uptake of chromium by up to 100%.

It appears to me that a productive chromium supplementing strategy would involve 500 mcg of chromium picolinate with a teaspoon of NTS BioSpark™ (vitamin C complex) and a heaped teaspoon of NTS Digest-Ease™, which is both a probiotic and a rich source of multiple amino acids. The synergy here also involves the proven concept of putting the microbes behind the minerals to magnify response. You could even mix the above combination into your kale-based green smoothie to reap the rewards from using the oxalic acid content of this brassica to further boost the chromium response. In fact, I will try that myself when I return home from my current seminar tour abroad.

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