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Chromium glucose tolerance factor (GTF) is a trace mineral found in certain foods that works with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and digest carbohydrates. Chromium, which is found naturally in the body, helps the liver manufacture cholesterol, lipoproteins, fatty acids and lecithin. When the glucose tolerance factor is not working properly, the body's cells do not properly digest glucose needed for energy. Chromium GTF is marketed as a nutritional supplement that helps to lower cholesterol and improve the body's regulation of blood glucose levels through the glucose tolerance factor. Chromium GTF is also sold as a weight-loss supplement that reduces fat and increases lean muscle mass.
Foods such as meat, whole-grain products and poultry contain trace amounts of chromium. Brewer's yeast and some fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, apples and bananas, also contain small amounts of chromium. The body requires only a small amount of chromium, so it should not be difficult to get enough without supplementation when eating a balanced diet. The manufacturing process of food, however, can reduce the amount of chromium and other minerals, so diets that are high in processed foods and simple sugars might be low in chromium. In these cases, chromium GTF supplementation might be necessary.
Active clinical trials have begun to test the link between chromium GTF and a variety of health conditions. The most interest lies with the use of chromium GTF in supplement form as a treatment for diabetes, as well as its role in promoting weight loss, improving body composition, preventing heart disease and improving mood. Research also has begun to test the effect of chromium GTF on increasing strength and lean muscle mass. Clinical studies suggest that chromium GTF supplementation might be beneficial for these conditions, but as of October 2010, it had not been approved by regulatory agencies for treatment or prevention of any health condition.
Limited clinical research has been conducted on possible side effects of chromium GTF, because few incidents of adverse effects have been reported. Interactions and allergic reactions, however, are possible with any medication or herbal supplement. An allergic reaction might be indicated by hives; swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat; or difficulty breathing.
Chromium is also known to interact with specific medications such as antacids, corticosteroids and proton-pump inhibitors. These medications alter the stomach's digestive properties, preventing the proper absorption of chromium. Diets high in sugar also interfere with the effectiveness of this supplement. Chromium increases the effects of other medications such as beta-blockers, insulin, nicotinic acid, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and prostaglandin inhibitors.