What is chromium and why do we need it in our diets?
A dietitian explains what this little-known nutrient is, the role it plays in the body, how much we need, and which foods it can be found in.
Chromium is a trace element that plays a role in insulin regulation. You should be able to get all the chromium you need from a balanced and varied diet.
Always speak to your GP or healthcare provider before taking a new supplement or if you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies.
What is chromium?
Chromium is a trace element that is required in small quantities by the body. It is found in two forms, the first being trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food. The second is hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution.
Why do we need chromium?
Chromium is required for the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat and protein to a suitable form that can be used by the body. It is also known to enhance the action of insulin – chromium deficiency impairs the function of insulin. However, it is still unclear if chromium supplements improve glucose control.
How much chromium do we need and what are the effects of consuming too much?
The NHS advises that around 25 micrograms of chromium a day should be enough for adults. A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg).
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There are some case reports to suggest the high doses of chromium can harm the kidneys and liver. A healthy and balanced diet should provide enough chromium for the body, so supplements should not generally be necessary.
Which foods are good sources of chromium?
Wholegrain products, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, molasses, pulses and spices are good sources of chromium.
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This article was published on 6 August 2019.
Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London's top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.
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