The mineral chromium (Cr) is found in trace amounts in the body. It is useful for digesting food and helps with the transfer of blood sugar from the blood to the cells. Here blood sugar turns fats, proteins and carbohydrates to energy. Chromium is found in natural foods like meat, potato, brewer’s yeast, molasses, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and cereals. Chromium is available as a multivitamin or pure chromium supplements. However, most of our dietary requirement is got from eating a balanced diet.
Chromium could help type-2 diabetic patients, lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Low levels of chromium could increase the risk of heart disease and glaucoma. It could reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women by preventing too much calcium loss. Chromium is useful in burning fat, optimal use of carbohydrates and building muscles.
Cinnamon and Chromium Benefits
Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
Both cinnamon and chromium are said to help with regulating blood sugar levels and could therefore provide benefits for those with type-2 diabetes. In one study of 60 people suffering from type-2 diabetes, the patients were split into groups with 3 groups being given a placebo and the other 3 groups 1, 3 or 6g cinnamon daily for 40 days. At the end of this period, the placebo group showed no change but the cinnamon group had lower levels of serum glucose, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride and total cholesterol levels. Hence, inclusion of cinnamon in our diet could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Chromium deficiency could inhibit the proper use of blood glucose by the body. Hence, it has been suggested that such people could be given chromium supplements to control symptoms of type-2 diabetes. While some clinical trials found the benefits of chromium for diabetics, other studies were inconclusive. It has been suggested that further trials be conducted on populations at risk of chromium deficiency.
Some studies found that 150-1000mcg chromium taken daily could reduce LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels although the results are again inconclusive. Another clinical trial suggested that 200-1000mcg daily of chromium picolinate supplements could help increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.
Another study has been conducted on the efficacy of chromium and cinnamon polyphenols for improving insulin sensitivity. They both offer similar benefits for glucose control and insulin signaling. In a controlled study, it was found that patients taking chromium supplements showed improvement in their HbA1c, cholesterol, and glucose and insulin levels. Cinnamon polyphenols reduced total, LDL, serum glucose and triglycerides in in vitro human and animal studies. The extent of the beneficial effects of cinnamon and chromium depends to a great extent on glucose intolerance and obesity of the patients.
It has been suggested that a combination of cinnamon and chromium could help with promoting weight loss since both help with optimal use of insulin and controlling blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance can cause excess blood glucose to enter the blood stream. This will be deposited as fat. This in turn makes the pancreas produce more insulin. We feel hungry all the time and this leads to eating more, increased weight and so on.
Both cinnamon and chromium help with weight loss by opening up cells and allowing glucose and insulin to enter. Our insulin sensitivity improves and so also our lean body mass. As lean body mass grows, insulin levels go down and a person could lose weight. Medical studies have found that both cinnamon and chromium are healthy and help with weight loss. Combined, they could provide a potent weight loss tool.
For adults and adolescent children the recommended daily dosage of chromium is 50-200mcg per day. The safe dosage of cassia cinnamon given for type-2 diabetes is 1-6g a day for 4 months. For cinnamon supplements, it is 500mg taken 3 times daily.
Chromium in food does not cause any side effects. Excess chromium from supplements could cause hypoglycemia, stomach problems or damage the kidney, liver and nerves. It could also cause irregular heart rhythm. People who suffer from over exposure to chromium when working in electroplating or metallurgy factories could be at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, eczema, inflammatory skin conditions or kidney damage.
Cinnamon spice can be safely consumed in food amounts. Taken in excess this spice or cinnamon oil could cause mouth sores, tongue inflammation, irritation of the mucous membranes, skin, stomach, urinary tract or intestines. It could also cause diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness and vomiting. Pregnant and breast feeding women are advised not to use cinnamon supplements. Excess cinnamon could lower blood sugar levels and interfere with blood clotting.
Anyone taking cinnamon and chromium supplements must consult their doctor before doing so.