When we eat a meal, blood sugar levels start to rise, triggering the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin. This insulin then plugs into receptors on the surface of muscle, liver, and fat cells, acting as a signal to switch on a complex process inside the cells that enables them to absorb the sugar and use it for energy.
Insulin also causes chromium ions to flow into these cells. Chromium supports the activity of an enzyme called tyrosine kinase which, in turn, amplifies the insulin signal for absorbing blood sugar. With adequate levels of chromium, the activity of tyrosine kinase is magnified up to eightfold, thereby enabling a small amount of insulin to trigger sufficient absorption of sugar in the blood (Vincent, 2000).
When chromium intake is inadequate, as is the case for most North Americans, this amplification process is impaired. As a result, the cells do not completely absorb the blood sugar, and the pancreas must secrete more insulin. Chronically elevated insulin levels are a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, research has shown that taking a chromium picolinate supplement can support normal insulin function and improve blood glucose balance.