Chromium: Reference and Dietary Sources

Abstract

In this article, we describe:

  • the major purposes of this specific nutrient in the human body, 
  • its experimentally confirmed health uses, 
  • conventional ways to estimate nutrient status,
  • nutrient’s toxicities and deficiencies,
  • experimentally confirmed and approved levels of the nutrient intake for different demographics,
  • dietary sources of the nutrient.

Introduction

Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts, although its mechanisms of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimal health are not well defined. It is found primarily in two forms: 1) trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food, and 2) hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution.

Chromium has long been of interest for its possible connection to various health conditions. Among the most active areas of chromium research are its use in supplement form to treat diabetes, lower blood lipid levels, promote weight loss, and improve body composition.

Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. In 1957, a compound in brewers’ yeast was found to prevent an age-related decline in the ability of rats to maintain normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. Chromium was identified as the active ingredient in this so-called “glucose tolerance factor”.

Chromium also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. As chromium, added at doses of 150 to 250 mcg/day for up to two weeks, corrected diabetes symptoms, it is now routinely added to intravenous solutions. However, there are reports of significant age-related decreases in the chromium concentrations of hair, sweat and blood, which might suggest that older people are more vulnerable to chromium depletion than younger adults.

Reports of actual chromium deficiency in humans are rare, and few serious adverse effects have been linked to high intakes of chromium. Unfortunately, blood, urine, and hair levels do not necessarily reflect body chromium stores. Furthermore, no chromium-specific enzyme or other biochemical marker has been found to reliably assess a person’s chromium status.

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Adequate Intakes (AIs) for Chromium

There is no RDA established for Chromium.

AgeInfants and children
(mcg/day)
Males
(mcg/day)
Females
(mcg/day)
Pregnancy
(mcg/day)
Lactation
(mcg/day)
0 to 6 months0.2
7 to 12 months5.5
1 to 3 years11
4 to 8 years15
9 to 13 years2521
14 to 18 years35242944
19 to 50 years35253045
>50 years3020

mcg = micrograms

Selected Food Sources of Chromium

Chromium is widely distributed in the food supply, but most foods provide only small amounts (less than 2 micrograms [mcg] per serving). Meat and whole-grain products, as well as some fruits, vegetables, and spices are relatively good sources. In contrast, foods high in simple sugars (like sucrose and fructose) are low in chromium.

Dietary intakes of chromium cannot be reliably determined because the content of the mineral in foods is substantially affected by agricultural and manufacturing processes and perhaps by contamination with chromium when the foods are analyzed. The table below provides approximate values of chromium in foods that should only serve as a guide.

FoodMicrograms (mcg)per servingPercent DV*
Broccoli, ½ cup1131
Grape juice, 1 cup823
English muffin, whole wheat, 1411
Mashed potatoes, 1 cup39
Dried garlic, 1 teaspoon39
Dried basil, 1 teaspoon26
Beef cubes, 3 ounces26
Orange juice, 1 cup26
Turkey breast, 3 ounce26
Whole wheat bread, 2 slices26
Red wine, 5 ounces1–133–39
Unpeeled apple, 1 medium13
Banana, 1 medium13
Green beans, ½ cup13
  • *DV = Daily Value.
  • The DV for chromium used for the values above is 35 mcg for adults and children age 4 years and older.
  • Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

References

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