Chromium (Cr) is one of the most abundant elements in nature. Cr is present in many different minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. It is also found in trace amounts in some plants and animals.
The human body needs Cr to function properly. Without it, cells cannot perform their functions effectively and may die or become damaged. The body uses Cr as an energy source. Some of the ways in which Cr is used are:
1. To produce ATP, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is the energy used by cells to do work. The body is able to produce various types of energy in different ways which include: light, heat, movement, etc. ATP is a temporary form of energy.
2. To produce hormones and enzymes which control the body’s energy production.
The liver uses Cr to produce various hormones.
3. To maintain healthy nerves and bones.
The body absorbs Cr mainly from the food we eat though it may also be absorbed from the air we breathe and in small amounts from water.
The three main functions of Cr in the body are:
Metabolic function, which involves the production of hormones, enzymes and energy.
Cellular growth and maintenance.
The recommended daily allowance of Cr is between 25 and 45 micrograms (mcg) a day. The average person in the United States consumes about 120-160 mcg of Cr a day.
The daily minimum of Cr is not normally a problem for most people. What is more of a concern is getting enough chromium in the diet to meet the body’s needs.
Most people get enough Cr in their diet. The average person consumes about 130-160 mcg of Cr a day in their diet, mainly from bread and other grain products.
Most commercial whole grain products have Cr in them. In general, the more processed a grain food is, such as white bread and white rice, the less Cr it has.
Most meats, especially beef and pork, also have Cr in them. Cr is not only in the muscle but also in the organ meat (liver and kidneys). Some seafood also has Cr in them.
Natural occurring substances such as bee pollen, apple pectin, whole garlic and leeks also have Cr in them.
Deficiency of Cr is generally uncommon but can occur in people who are on very restrictive diets or people who have stomach or intestinal surgery.
The most common symptoms of Cr deficiency are stomach problems such as decreased ability to digest food, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue.
People who have a Cr deficiency are also at higher risk for other nutritional problems such as anemia (low red blood cells), osteoporosis (bone loss) and muscle breakdown.
As more studies are done on Cr, more health benefits of Cr are being discovered. For example, people who get enough Cr in their diet have been shown to be less likely to get Parkinson’s disease.
If you want to make sure you get enough Cr in your diet, there are several sources of Cr you can look to. Good sources of Cr include garlic, whole grain products, soy beans and bee pollen.
If you are concerned that you might not be getting enough Cr in your diet, you can take a multivitamin. Most multivitamins have some amount of Cr in them. Make sure to choose a multivitamin that has at least 15-25 mcg of Cr in each daily dosage.
Some people may need to take a separate Cr supplement. People who might need to do this include people with weight problems or older people. Special supplements designed for people with weight problems often have higher levels of Cr in them.
If you get enough Cr in your daily diet, you probably do not need to take a separate Cr supplement.
The Cr content of various foods is listed in both micrograms (mcg) and in milligrams (mg). There are one thousand micrograms in one milligram.
Here are some excellent food sources of Cr:
Liver, beef: 3.5 mg per 3 oz. (85 g)
Eggs: 0.8 mg per egg
Mussels: 0.5 mg per mussel
Whole Wheat: 0.5 mg per 1/2 cup (64 g)
Green Beans: 0.4 mg per 1/2 cup (67 g)
Pumpkin: 0.4 mg per 1/2 cup (67 g)
Peanuts: 0.4 mg per 1/4 cup (32 g)
Kidney Beans: 0.3 mg per 1/2 cup (78 g)
Soy Beans: 0.3 mg per 1/2 cup (67 g)
Other good sources of Cr are:
Almonds: 0.2 mg per nut
Oatmeal: 0.2 mg per 1/2 cup (43 g)
Lentils: 0.2 mg per 1/2 cup (78 g)
Spinach: 0.2 mg per 1/2 cup (67 g)
Peas: 0.2 mg per 1/2 cup (78 g)
Bananas: 0.1 mg per banana
Green Peppers: 0.1 mg per green pepper
Pineapple: 0.1 mg per slice
Sources & references used in this article:
- Classical many-body potential for concentrated alloys and the inversion of order in iron-chromium alloys (A Caro, DA Crowson, M Caro – Physical review letters, 2005 – APS)
- Chromium as a supplement (HC Lukaski – Annual review of nutrition, 1999 – annualreviews.org)
- Gut microflora & toxic metals: chromium as a model (RK Upreti, R Shrivastava… – Indian Journal of Medical …, 2004 – repository.ias.ac.in)
- Effects of exercise on chromium levels (PM Clarkson – Sports Medicine, 1997 – Springer)
- Effects of aerobic exercise and training on the trace minerals chromium, zinc and copper (WW Campbell, RA Anderson – Sports Medicine, 1987 – Springer)