It is believed that chromium plays a role in a number of processes, however the exact molecular and cellular processes are still a subject of ongoing research. Some of the uncertainty surrounding chromium’s biological functions stems from difficulties in accurately measuring chromium levels in the body and understanding how different forms of chromium are absorbed and utilised.
One area of interest is the role of chromium in enhancing the action of insulin. Some studies have suggested that chromium may help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, while others have not found any significant effects. Due to these inconsistencies in research findings, the precise mechanisms and the extent to which chromium influences insulin function remain unclear.
Moreover, there is ongoing research to understand the bioavailability of different forms of chromium, such as trivalent chromium (chromium III) and hexavalent chromium (chromium VI). Trivalent chromium is the biologically active form found in food sources and supplements, while hexavalent chromium is considered toxic and poses health risks.
Chromium is a trace element required by our bodies in small amounts for proper functioning. It might play a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and it might also improve blood sugar.
Possible Functions of Chromium
It is argued :
- Blood sugar regulation: Chromium enhances the action of insulin, which is crucial for maintaining stable blood sugar levels and preventing the development of diabetes.
- Lipid metabolism: Chromium is involved in the metabolism of fats and cholesterol, and adequate chromium levels may help improve blood lipid profiles.
- Protein metabolism: Chromium is necessary for the proper utilisation of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Good Sources of Chromium
Chromium can be found in various food sources, both plant-based and animal-based. These include:
- Broccoli: One of the richest sources of chromium, a single serving can provide a significant amount of the daily recommended intake.
- Grains: Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice, contain trace amounts of chromium.
- Green beans and potatoes: These vegetables provide moderate amounts of chromium.
- Meat and poultry: Lean cuts of beef, chicken, and turkey contain some chromium.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese provide trace amounts of chromium.
- Nuts: Almonds and peanuts are sources of chromium.
How Much Chromium Do We Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake of chromium varies depending on age, sex, and life stage. Here are some general guidelines:
- Infants (0-6 months)*: 0.2 mcg/day (micrograms)
- Infants (7-12 months)*: 5.5 mcg/day
- Children (1-3 years): 11 mcg/day
- Children (4-8 years): 15 mcg/day
- Children (9-13) males: 25 mcg/day
- Children (9-13) females: 21 mcg/day
- Children (14-18) males: 35mcg/day
- Children (14-18) females: 24 mcg/day
- Men (aged 19-50): 35 mcg/day
- Men (aged 51 and older): 30 mcg/day
- Women (aged 19-50): 25 mcg/day
- Women (aged 51 and older): 20 mcg/day
- Pregnant women: 30 mcg/day
- Breastfeeding women: 45 mcg/day
* The values for infants are adequate intake (AI)
It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine your specific chromium needs.
What are the Signs of Chromium Deficiency?
Chromium deficiency is relatively rare but can occur under certain circumstances. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Impaired glucose tolerance: Difficulty in maintaining stable blood sugar levels may be an indication of chromium deficiency.
- Elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels: Chromium deficiency can lead to imbalances in blood lipid profiles.
- Fatigue and weakness: Inadequate chromium levels can contribute to feelings of fatigue and muscle weakness.
- In some cases, chromium deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
If you suspect you may be deficient in chromium, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.
What Happens If I Take Too Much Chromium?
Excessive chromium intake is generally rare, as our bodies are efficient in regulating chromium absorption. However, consuming large amounts of chromium supplements can lead to chromium toxicity, which can cause various symptoms and complications. Some common signs of chromium overdose include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Liver and kidney damage
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
It’s essential to follow the recommended daily intake guidelines and consult with a healthcare professional before taking chromium supplements, as excessive chromium intake can be harmful.