Chromium is a mineral known as an "essential trace element," which means you don't need a lot of chromium to experience the health benefits. Chromium is found in both food and some supplements, so getting enough should be easy. Not only that, there are many advantages from getting your daily amount of chromium.
Different Forms of Chromium
There are two major types of chromium:
- Trivalent Chromium: Found in food, trivalent chromium (chromium 3+) is biologically active, meaning it's safe to consume.
- Hexavalent Chromium: This form is a toxic variant of chromium. Hexavalent chromium (chromium 6+) is a result of industrial pollution, meaning it isn't safe to consume.
Otherwise, it is an essential trace element, but whenever "chromium" is mentioned in terms of human health, assume trivalent chromium is what's being inferred.
Chromium packs a lot of punch with a really small dose (which is revealed in the next section). Here are the benefits:
- Improves blood sugar1
- Lowers hunger/cravings2
- Weight loss management3
- Reduces insulin resistance4
- Could potentially reduce symptoms of depression4
How to Use
Chromium usually comes in the form of a pill or powder when supplemented. Take with your first meal of the day. You should only have to supplement once daily.
Chromium is typically included in many popular supplements and isn't normally bought by itself. It's a regular addition to weight management supplements, due to its suppression of cravings, most notably sweets and other carbohydrates that can be stored easily as fat. Another way chromium is supplemented is through daily multivitamins. In either case, it should provide your daily need for chromium.
Daily Recommended Allowance
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes (developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences), males get anywhere between 25-35 mcg of chromium daily, while females acquire for 20-25. "Mcg" stands for microgram; one microgram equates to 1/1000 of a milligram, meaning you don't need very much. (In fact, the most you'd ever need as a human would be if you're a lactating female, at which point you'd only require 44-45mcg per day.)
These values are, in fact, not recommended daily allowances (RDAs) due to the lack of sufficient research of chromium. The ranges above are actually Adequate Intakes (AIs), which translates to, "a level that healthy people typically consume." There is also an "estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake" for chromium: a range of 50-200mcg.
Symptoms of Chromium Deficiency
There are only a handful of crucial symptoms for those with a chromium deficiency:
- Craving sweets
- Increased risk of depression
- Decreased ability for your body to metabolize fats and glucose
- Inhibition of protein production
- Additional production of cholesterol and triglycerides
That last symptom is particularly bad because heightened cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood result in higher fat storage in the body as well as potential heart health issues.
Who Is at Risk of a Deficiency
Chromium deficiency is quite rare; however, there are a select few who are at risk, including elderly people and those with Type 2 diabetes. Sadly, these claims are not substantiated by research and can only be speculative at best. Still, if you notice any of the above symptoms, it would be best to test chromium levels with your medical professional.
Symptoms of Chromium Toxicity
Another potentially harmful condition is chromium toxicity, or where you take in too much chromium. Thankfully, with the intestinal absorption rate being so low, this affliction is also quite uncommon. There is no maximum daily intake level established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, so it's tough to know whether or not there are any symptoms of taking too much chromium.
At the very least, it would be wasteful to attempt to consume more and more chromium; while there aren't any adverse effects of this to date, there aren't any positive effects of doing this either.
Foods That Contain Chromium
Apparently, quantifying chromium amounts in food sources is tricky, based off of the fact that agricultural and livestock production quality is highly varied. With different soils, practices and pesticides, chromium levels are altered from one piece of food to the other, even if they're the same food.
Nevertheless, there are certain foods that should normally have a decent amount of chromium:
- Lean Beef
- Orange/ Grape Juice
Again, this list doesn't include portion amounts or chromium levels per serving because there isn't a heavily-researched, set level for these foods. You shouldn't worry about this, though; you'll be able to ingest plenty of chromium by picking a handful of these foods and consuming them as part of your daily diet.