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Chromium

Other name(s):

trivalent chromium, chromium picolinate

General description

Chromium is an essential trace metal involved in regulating blood sugar and enhancing insulin action. It is also needed to metabolize and store carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Therefore, adequate amounts are required in the diet for normal breakdown of carbohydrates.

Medically valid uses

Although some studies have shown that chromium supplementation can improve blood sugar levels in chromium deficient animals, chromium deficiency is rare in humans. Studies of chromium supplementation to treat blood sugar and type 2 diabetes in humans are inconclusive but research is ongoing.

Recommended intake

Chromium is measured in micrograms (mcg). Listed below are the adequate intake (AI) levels for chromium set by the National Academy of Sciences. These represent the level that healthy people typically consume.

Group

Suggested allowance

Infants 0 to 6 months

0.2 mcg

Infants 7 to 12 months

5.5 mcg

Children 1 to 3 years)

11 mcg

Children 4 to 8 years

15 mcg

Children 9 to 13 years

males 25 mcg, females 21 mcg

Adolescents (14 to 18 years)

males 35 mcg, females 24 mcg

Adults (19 to 50)

males 35 mcg, females 25 mcg

Adults (50+)

males 30 mcg, females 20 mcg

Pregnant women

29-30 mcg

Breastfeeding women

44-45 mcg

Body concentrations of chromium decline with age.

Note: Oral chromium is poorly absorbed. Many products are chelated (the chromium binds to another chemical that will help absorption).

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the dietary intake of chromium cannot be reliably determined. This is because of the impact of agricultural and manufacturing processes. Therefore, the following information provides approximate values of chromium in foods that should only serve as a guide. 

 

Food

Chromium (mcg)

Broccoli, 1/2 cup

11

Grape juice, 1 cup

8

English muffin, whole wheat, 1

4

Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup

3

Garlic, dried, 1 teaspoon

3

Basil, dried, 1 tablespoon

2

Beef cubes, 3 oz.

2

Orange juice, 1 cup

2

Turkey breast, 3 oz.

2

Whole wheat bread, 2 slices

2

Red wine, 5 oz.

1–13

Apple, unpeeled, 1 medium

1

Banana, 1 medium

1

Green beans, 1/2 cup

1

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Although there are few serious adverse effects of high dietary chromium intake, all people should consult a physician before using chromium supplementation.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any mineral supplements.

Chromium supplements could decrease medication requirements or decrease blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Diabetic patients who start chromium supplements should monitor their blood sugar closely.

Chromium supplements also can have interactions with other medications, causing increased or decreased chromium absorption or increased or decreased effects of the medication. Chromium-medication interactions include:

  • Antacids, corticosteroids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors may reduce chromium levels.

  • Beta-blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and prostaglandin inhibitors may increase chromium levels.

  • Niacin and vitamin C can aid with chromium's absorption in the intestinal track. Zinc may decrease the absorption of chromium.

  • Insulin's activity may be increased by chromium, possibly lowering the amount of insulin or oral hypoglycemic agent needed to manage blood sugar levels.

Additional information

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