December 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Elements

Keywords: blood sugar control, anti-diabetic


As part of Glucose Tolerance Factor (see below), promotes good blood sugar balance and enhances the effectiveness of insulin.

Good food sources

  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Whole grains
  • Yeast

Deficiency symptoms

  • Adult-onset diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Elevated blood cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides
  • Reactive hypoglycaemia (with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and mood swings)

Preventing deficiency

Sugar metabolism requires chromium, B vitamins and magnesium. A high sugar consumption uses up these nutrients without replacing them, because sugar does not contain any vitamins or other nutrients except calories. (Beware the advertisements about sugar giving you energy; energy is simply the scientific name for calories!) Chromium is also lost in the urine whenever sugar is consumed.

Many countries make the replacement of some of the lost B vitamins compulsory in products made from refined (white) flour, since the B vitamins are, like chromium, mostly found in the bran and germ of the flour, not in the white, starchy portion. Unfortunately chromium is not replaced in this way although 98 per cent of the chromium in wheat is lost when flour is refined.

To avoid a chromium deficiency, your diet should be low in sugar (for instance you could restrict your intake of sugary food or drink to just one small item a day), and you should use wholemeal bread, flour and cereals whenever possible.

Dietary chromium in the US and other developed countries is roughly half of the minimum suggested intake of 50 micrograms. This marginal intake may lead to health problems. Supplementation with chromium has demonstrated many health benefits but it will only benefit those people whose signs and symptoms are due to chromium deficiency (Anderson RA: Essentiality of chromium in humans. Sci Total Environ 1989;86(1-2)75-81).


GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor), which is a water-soluble component of liver, blood plasma and brewer’s yeast, and is the form in which chromium exerts its blood sugar controlling activity, has never been chemically identified, but is thought to consist of a combination of chromium with the B vitamin nicotinic acid and three amino acids: glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. However, artificial complexes made with these ingredients do not result in the same degree of biological activity as found in the material produced by living cells.

Chromium supplements are popular as weight loss aids in some circles. Correcting chromium deficiency with dietary supplements may help to stabilize blood sugar. This may in turn assist appetite control since low blood sugar leads to feelings of hunger.

Small amounts of a toxic form of chromium may leach from stainless steel cookware if it comes into contact with acidic food.

Research paper

Wallach S: Clinical and biochemical aspects of chromium deficiency. J Amer Coll Nutr 1985;4:107-120.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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