Blood & Laboratory Values

Chromium – Function & Diseases


Most people probably associate chrome with rims or stainless steel. But the metal is also vital for the body.

What is chrome?

Chromium is one of the so-called essential trace elements . The human body cannot produce these itself, which is why they have to be added to it regularly through food.

Since the daily requirement for chromium is extremely low at less than one milligram, it is also referred to as an ultra-trace element. The term chrome is derived from the ancient Greek word for colour. This designation is due to the brightly colored chromium salts. Chromium was first detected at the end of the 18th century in a process lasting several years through the collaboration of researchers from different disciplines. However, its importance as an essential trace element for the human organism was not discovered until much later, namely in 1959.

Chromium is stored in the body in organs such as the liver or spleen , as well as in muscles , fat and bones . Apart from humans, chromium is of great importance for the metal industry and is used in the production of alloys and stainless steel. In its pure form, it is a lustrous heavy metal with a bluish-white color.

Function, effect & tasks

Chromium plays an important role in the human body, especially for the metabolism of carbohydrates . In particular, it contributes to the normal absorption and processing of glucose (sugar). It supports the hormone insulin in its function as a blood sugar reducer. 

In addition, chromium is also involved in other metabolic processes such as fat metabolism in the body and has a cholesterol- regulating effect. It promotes the reduction of LDL cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, and on the other hand increases the proportion of “good” HDL cholesterol. Athletes often take chromium as a dietary supplement because it stimulates the production of endogenous proteins and at the same time increases the absorption of amino acids in the muscles, which can contribute to faster muscle growth.

Furthermore, chromium contributes to normal thyroid function and is believed to be involved in many other important processes in the body. However, the research on this is not yet complete.

Formation, Occurrence, Properties & Optimal Values

As an essential trace element, chromium cannot be produced by the body itself and must therefore be supplied to it. There are many foods that contain chromium. This includes meat and whole grain products. The richest sources of chromium are innards such as liver or kidneys .

But chromium is also found in legumes, nuts, seeds, cheese, brewer’s yeast, oysters and honey. The daily requirement, which is between 30 and 100 micrograms for young people and adults, can therefore be covered with a balanced diet without any problems and without additional supplementation. So contain e.g. B. 100 grams of lentils already contain 70 micrograms of chromium, which almost covers the average requirement – even if it is in the higher range. However, there is a risk with an incorrect or unhealthy and unbalanced diet. Industrially processed foods such as white sugar or white flour lose almost 90 percent of their chromium content as a result of processing.

So, people whose diet is primarily based on processed foods are at risk of suffering from a chromium deficiency. If you also take into account that some researchers place the daily chromium requirement of an adult at between 200 and 300 micrograms, this danger becomes even greater. However, there are foods that are naturally low in chromium, such as fruit and most vegetables. Chromium has the property of being deposited in the body when taken in sufficient quantities. With advancing age, however, these stores are attacked and gradually emptied.

Diseases & Disorders

Both a deficiency and an overdose of chromium can lead to physical complaints, some of which can be serious. As a rule, a chromium deficiency hardly ever occurs with a normal diet. 

However, there are exceptions, such as some radical diets that involve drinking only juiced fruits and vegetables for an extended period of time. Months of artificial nutrition can also lead to a lack of chromium. Since the glucose metabolism is disturbed, the symptoms caused by such a chromium deficiency are similar to those of diabetes mellitus . Insulin levels increase and glucose tolerance decreases. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels also increase. Other symptoms relate to the general condition and the muscles. This can lead to irritability , confusion , nervousness , depressive moods, difficulty concentrating ,itching , muscle weakness and weight loss .

If the chromium requirement is covered by an adequate supply, the symptoms usually disappear after a short time. A massive overdose of chromium, on the other hand, can result in chromium poisoning. However, this cannot be done solely through intake from food, since vast amounts of chromium-containing foods would have to be eaten for this.

Even with dietary supplements, the recommended dose would have to be exceeded many times over in order to provoke chromium poisoning. Chrome poisoning is therefore only known from the world of work. For example, chromium vapors are produced during the manufacture of leather or metal goods. If these are inhaled, this can lead to symptoms such as nosebleeds , asthma or diarrhea . Construction workers who work with cement containing chromium also suffer more from allergies and contact eczema.

Even if not all bodily functions in which chromium is involved have been fully researched, it is an important trace element that is of great importance for health and should therefore be consumed in sufficient quantities.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.