Chromium is a mineral our bodies
use in small amounts for normal body functions, such as digesting food.
Chromium exists in many natural foods including brewer’s yeast, meats, potatoes
(especially the skins), cheeses, molasses, spices, whole-grain breads and
cereals, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Drinking hard tap water supplies
chromium to the body, and cooking in stainless-steel cookware increases the
chromium content in foods.
You can buy chromium supplements alone
in tablets or capsules or as part of a multivitamin. But because the human body
needs very little chromium, most people get enough in their regular diet and do
not require dietary supplements. Those at risk for chromium deficiency include
diabetes and the elderly.
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Chromium helps to move
blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy
and to turn fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy.
Chromium may help some people with
type 2 diabetes. It may help them control their blood
sugar and may play a role in the management of type 2 diabetes. But more
studies are needed to know how well it really works.
Chromium supplements are promoted as being helpful in building
muscle and burning fat and in helping the body use carbohydrates. But this has
not been proved.
Chromium may affect the eyes. There is a link
between low chromium levels and increased risk of
Chromium slows the loss of calcium, so it may help prevent bone
loss in women during
Is chromium safe?
The chromium found in foods will
not hurt you. But taking excessive chromium supplements can lead to stomach
problems and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Too much chromium from
supplements can also damage the liver, kidneys, and nerves, and it may cause
irregular heart rhythm. But side effects from taking chromium supplements are
Antacids (including calcium carbonate) interfere with the
absorption of chromium.
Being exposed to high levels of chromium
on the job (such as in metallurgy and electroplating) has been linked not only
to kidney damage but also to lung and other cancers as well as skin conditions
eczema and other inflammations of the skin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary
supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be
sold with limited or no research on how well it works or on its safety.