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Chromium and heart disease

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Chromium is an important trace mineral and there is some evidence that low levels may be associated with an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As is the case with many other vital nutrients, most people are probably deficient in chromium. It is estimated that the common western diet provides only about 30 micrograms/day, while the estimated adequate intake is 50- 200 micrograms/day.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health now report that men with diabetes and men with diabetes-associated cardiovascular disease have lower chromium levels than do healthy men. Their study involved over 33,000 male health professionals who provided toenail clippings in 1987. The researchers compared chromium levels in the toenail clippings (indicative of long-term chromium intake) between 688 men with diabetes, 198 diabetic men with cardiovascular disease, and 361 healthy men. They found that healthy men had an average chromium level of 0.71 mcg/g, men with diabetes had an average level of 0.61 mcg/g, and men with both diabetes and cardiovascular disease a level of 0.52 mcg/g. The researchers estimate that men with low chromium levels have a 25% greater risk of developing diabetes than do men with high levels and that diabetics with low chromium levels have a 55% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than do men with high levels. They conclude that long-term clinical trials are needed to determine whether chromium supplementation is beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease among diabetic patients.
Rajpathak, S, et al. Lower toenail chromium in men with diabetes and cardiovascular disease compared with healthy men. Diabetes Care, Vol. 27, September 2004, pp. 2211-16

Editor's comment: While awaiting the results of these proposed trials, it would seem prudent to ensure an adequate daily chromium intake by supplementing with 200 micrograms/day – an amount found in most well-formulated multivitamins.

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