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Vitamins Minerals: Focus on Chromium

image Chromium is a trace mineral that works with insulin to help regulate and maintain normal amount of sugar, glucose, in the blood. It also plays a role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Chromium can be found naturally in foods and also comes in a variety of supplemental forms.

Recommended Intake

Age Group Adequate Intake (micrograms/day)
Female Male
0-6 months 0.2 0.2
7-12 months 5.5 5.5
1-3 years 11 11
4-8 years 15 15
9-13 years 21 25
14-18 years 24 35
19-50 years 25 35
50+ years 20 30
Pregnancy 18 years or younger 29 n/a
Pregnancy 18+ 30 n/a
Lactation 18 years or younger 44 n/a
Lactation 18+ 45 n/a

Chromium Deficiency

Severe chromium deficiency is likely very rare. As chromium works closely with insulin, a deficiency of this mineral can produce symptoms similar to those seen in people with diabetes and can worsen glycemic control in people with pre-existing diabetes.

Safety Issues

It is difficult to consume toxic amounts of chromium from dietary sources alone. But, harmful levels of the mineral can potentially be ingested in the form of supplements. Daily dosages of 50-200 mcg are believed to be safe. The Institute of Medicine has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level.

A daily intake of over 1,200 micrograms has been reported to cause kidney, liver, and bone marrow damage in one person. In another case report, a patient taking daily dose of 600 mcg caused damage. You should talk to your doctor before taking more than 200 mcg. chromium toxicity may be more likely in people who already have liver or kidney disease

In addition, chromium picolinate appears to alter levels of neurotransmitters when taken in high doses—a possible concern for people with depression, bipolar disease, or schizophrenia.

Major Food Sources

Many foods contain a small amount of chromium. In general, whole grain breads and cereals and meats are all good sources. The content of chromium in many foods can be affected by how food is gown and processed. Here is a list of the approximate contents of chromium in certain foods:

Food Serving Size Chromium content (micrograms)
Broccoli ½ 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 ounces 2
Orange juice 1 cup 2
Turkey breast 3 ounces 2
Whole wheat bread 2 slices 2
Red wine 5 ounces 1-13
Apple, unpeeled 1 medium 1
Banana 1 medium 1
Green beans ½ cup 1

Health Implications

Research on Chromium

Researchers have studied using chromuim to help treat the following conditions, but the results are inconclusive:

Tips for Increasing Your Dietary Chromium Intake

  • Always talk to your doctor before taking a chromium supplement or any other dietary supplement. The supplement can interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medicines that you are taking or possibly affect a condition that you have.
  • You can get plenty of chromium from eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    http://www.eatright.org

  • United States Department of Agriculture

    http://www.usda.gov

  • Canadian Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.ca

  • Dietitians of Canada

    http://www.dietitians.ca

  • Balk E, Tatsioni A, Lichtenstein A, Lau J, Pittas AG. Effect of chromium supplementation on glucose metabolism and lipids: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes Care. 2007 May 22. [Epub ahead of print]

  • Chromium. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated July 2012. Accessed February 11, 2013.

  • Dietary supplement fact sheet: chromium. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/. Updated August 05, 2005. Accessed February 11, 2013.

  • Duyff RL. The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Publishing; 1998.

  • Duyff RL. The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc; 2006.

  • Garrison R, Somer E. The Nutrition Desk Reference. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1995.