According to new research an ingredient found in a number of diet supplements could be potentially dangerous.
Chromium, an ingredient that has often been marketed to help consumers lose weight, while also helping to manage insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes has been shown by Australian scientists to convert into a cancer-causing chemical.
What research was undertaken?
In the study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the Australian scientists from the universities of Sydney and NSW found that living cells turn chromium III into its “carcinogenic cousin”, hexavalent chromium.
It is this hexavalent chromium that was made famous during the film Erin Brockovich, as this was the chemical that was shown to cause cancerous tumours.
During the research the team injected animal fat cells with chromium III, before then using an intense X-ray to map the chemical elements.
This allowed the researchers to look closely at the cells to see if they became carcinogenic.
UNSW’s Dr Lindsay Wu had this to say about the findings:
“We were able to show that oxidation of chromium inside the cell does occur, as it loses electrons and transforms into a carcinogenic form.”
So is chromium really dangerous to humans?
While this research has shown that when chromium III is injected into animal cells they become carcinogenic this research is in its infancy.
Other organisations have concluded that chromium is safe to use, with the European Food Standards Authority and World Health Organisation evaluations stating as such.
A statement by Australian vitamins company Blackmores had this to say about the research:
“This study makes no meaningful contribution.”
“Other published studies show that chromium does not easily transfer into cells, and instead is stored or excreted.”
It is always worth reading as much information as you can before using a supplement, as well as speaking to your doctor. They will probably know much more than you do about medications and their effects.