Chromium is one of the important mineral elements of the human body. Although chromium is a trace element and comprises only 1.5-2.4 milligrams of the adult body mass, it is indispensable to the functioning of the hormone insulin. Insulin plays a crucial role in the control of blood sugar and glucose metabolism, which is linked to diabetes. As per National Institutes of Health, chromium directly helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, and their storage, apart from enhancing the properties of insulin.
Generally, chromium deficiency is not observed very frequently. Such deficiencies are only seen in pregnant women, individuals who exercise a lot, those who consume foods that are high in sugar, or those with severe trauma and infections. Deficient chromium states may be caused by a decreased intake of chromium in the diet due to decreased absorption of chromium by the body, or increased chromium excretion through the urine. Low levels of chromium may lead to increased fat/cholesterol levels in the blood, and increased blood sugar that may result in diabetes and cardiac abnormalities.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of chromium for males range between 25-35 micrograms/day and 20-25 micrograms/day for females. Different age groups have different chromium requirement quantities. The RDA during pregnancy is about 30 micrograms/day, and much higher at 45 micrograms/day for lactating mothers.
The following is a list of foods high in chromium:
- Green leafy vegetables that include broccoli and lettuce
- Cow’s milk
- Black pepper
- Brown rice
- Whole grains like barley and oats
- Bananas and apples
The amount of chromium in foods is generally very small. The process of preparation and cooking may also lead to a loss of chromium from them. Foods rich in vitamin B and vitamin C can increase the body’s absorption of chromium. According to the National Institutes of Health, the use of chromium supplements for various health conditions (such as type 2 diabetes) needs further investigation, for it is currently clouded in controversy. Hence, it is always recommended to take the advice of a suitable healthcare professional before taking any chromium supplements or bringing about any alteration to your regular food habits and diet.
Our body requires dietary chromium, though chromium is also found in the environment in the form of natural compounds and industrial pollutants. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, chromium compounds (other than in trace amounts) are hazardous and toxic to the human body. Inhalation of chromium compounds may lead to short-term and long-term respiratory problems, depending on the extent of exposure. Studies have clearly established a link between lung cancer and chromium inhalation. Chromium may enter our body through contaminated food and water too.