Overweight, blood sugar, and chromium

Overweight, blood sugar, and chromiumOverweight people often suffer from prediabetes, also known as metabolic syndrome, which is a condition characterized by blood sugar disturbances and cravings that make it difficult to maintain stable body weight. In addition, many people with this condition have low levels of chromium in their blood, which can contribute to insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, and hypertension – all of which are emblematic of metabolic syndrome, according to a Chinese study published in Nutrition Journal. Earlier studies also suggest that supplementation with chromium yeast may help control blood sugar levels. Another thing that is useful when regulating blood sugar levels to obtain weight loss is to adjust your intake of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in order to optimize the energy utilization.

Overweight and obesity are spreading like a bushfire. It is a problem that comes with a huge personal and socio-economic price tag. Today, over half the Danish population is overweight, and around 17 percent of all adults are obese with a BMI that exceeds 30. Many people argue that it is the overweight people’s own fault. Still, it appears that blood sugar disturbances play a key role and that makes it difficult to control your calorie intake. Therefore, it is of vital importance to do what you can to control your blood sugar.

What is blood sugar and what effect does chromium have?

Dietary carbohydrate typically comes from potatoes, grains, pasta, rice, fruit, or sugar. They are broken down into blood sugar (glucose) which all cells in the body need, especially brain and nerve cells. Cells in the muscles, the heart, and in other organs are also able to make energy from fat.
When you have eaten, glucose enters the cells with help from insulin, a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. Insulin functions as a cellular key. However, we also need chromium to help insulin function properly for optimal energy utilization.
If you lack chromium, it will have a correspondingly negative impact on cellular glucose uptake and energy turnover. To begin with, it affects the brain and nervous system with symptoms such as tiredness, poor concentration, inner unrest, and an insatiable desire for quick carbohydrates and other “fixes” that get into your blood in a split second. However, because there is a limit to how much the body can metabolize, especially if you are not physically active, the insulin production is stepped up in order to remove excess carbohydrates from the bloodstream. These carbohydrates are then stored as fat.

Why does insulin resistance increase your risk of overweight and diabetes?

When we consume a lot of carbohydrates, especially the refined type, our blood sugar levels skyrocket, causing the insulin production to increase correspondingly. This, over time, may result in insulin resistance where insulin gradually loses its ability to channel glucose into the cells. That means, even if you have just eaten, you will feel hungry soon after, simply because your cells are not getting enough energy.
Insulin resistance gradually develops over a period of many years and is part of metabolic syndrome, which is a disturbance of the body’s glucose and fat metabolism. In addition, metabolic syndrome is characterized by abdominal obesity, hypertension, non-alcohol fatty liver disease, and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. It is also an early stage of type 2 diabetes, and both metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are spreading rapidly in Western countries.

The link between chromium deficiency and signs of metabolic syndrome

It has been assumed for quite some time that chromium plays a positive role in the treatment of insulin resistance, diabetes, and elevated blood lipids. However, its effect when it comes to metabolic syndrome has been controversial. A group of Chinese scientists conducted a study of 2,141 people with metabolic syndrome and a control group consisting of 2,141 healthy individuals. The researchers measured chromium levels in the blood in all participants using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS.) The more signs of metabolic syndrome the participants had, the lower their chromium content. These signs included enlarged waist circumference (abdominal obesity), elevated triglyceride levels, and elevated glucose levels that are a sign of insulin resistance. This study suggests that lack of chromium increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Chromium sources and factors that lead to chromium deficiency

Chromium is mainly found in brewer’s yeast, cocoa beans, apricots, seeds, almonds, beans, nuts, fish, and meat. Low chromium levels in the soil result in crops that lack chromium. Also, our refined diets only contain very little chromium.
When blood sugar levels drop too fast, around twenty percent of the chromium content in blood is excreted in the urine. Therefore, it we eat too many fast and refined carbohydrates, the body loses a lot of chromium. Stimulant abuse, stress, and prolonged dieting may also deplete the body’s chromium reserves.

Chromium’s effect on insulin, blood sugar, and circulatory system

  • Enhances the effect of insulin
  • Improves the glucose uptake in nerve cells, muscle cells, and other tissues
  • Improves the glucose uptake in the brain’s satiety center, thereby reducing hunger symptoms
  • Lowers lipid levels in the blood

Chromium yeast has the best effect on blood glucose levels

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved chromium yeast for the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels and normal macronutrient metabolism. Also, EFSA has found that chromium yeast is up to 10 times more bioavailable than chromium picolinate and chromium chloride.

Studies of chromium yeast

A number of scientific studies have investigated the effect of chromium-enriched yeast, especially when given to diabetics. In a three-month study, 36 type 2 diabetics got 200 micrograms of pharmaceutical-grade chromium yeast or placebo every day

The following improvements were observed in the chromium-supplemented group:

  • Weight loss (1.3 kilos on average)
  • Reduced glucose levels (in the placebo group, levels went up)
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (improved effect of insulin)

Energy distribution, blood glucose, and weight loss

Since the 1970s, overweight people and diabetics have been advised to consume a low-fat diet with bread, potatoes, and other carbohydrate sources. However, a more recent Danish study has revealed that a diet with fewer carbohydrates is a lot better. This fits in nicely with international studies showing the same. Overweight people and individuals that are sensitive to changes in blood sugar, people with metabolic syndrome, and diabetics should also strive to eat a diet with fewer carbohydrates, more protein, and healthy fats.

References:

Sijing Chen et al. Association of plasma chromium with metabolic syndrome among Chinese adults: a case-control study. Nutrition Journal. 2020

Bispebjerg Hospital. Færre kulhydrater forbedrer type-2 diabetikeres evne til at regulere blodsukkeret. Nyhedsbrev 10. august 2019

J. Racek et al: Biological Trace Element Research. 2006

Overvægt og fedme i Danmark | faktalink

Pernille Lund: Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny Videnskab 2013