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Chromium is a mineral our bodies
use in small amounts for normal body functions, such as digesting food.
Chromium exists in many natural foods including brewer’s yeast, meats, potatoes
(especially the skins), cheeses, molasses, spices, whole-grain breads and
cereals, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Drinking hard tap water supplies
chromium to the body, and cooking in stainless-steel cookware increases the
chromium content in foods.
You can buy chromium supplements alone
in tablets or capsules or as part of a multivitamin. But because the human body
needs very little chromium, most people get enough in their regular diet and do
not require dietary supplements. Those at risk for chromium deficiency include
diabetes and the elderly.
Chromium helps to move
blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy
and to turn fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy.
The chromium found in foods will
not hurt you. But taking excessive chromium supplements can lead to stomach
problems and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Too much chromium from
supplements can also damage the liver, kidneys, and nerves, and it may cause
irregular heart rhythm. But side effects from taking chromium supplements are
Antacids (including calcium carbonate) interfere with the
absorption of chromium.
Being exposed to high levels of chromium
on the job (such as in metallurgy and electroplating) has been linked not only
to kidney damage but also to lung and other cancers as well as skin conditions
eczema and other inflammations of the skin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary
supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be
sold with limited or no research on how well it works or on its safety.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you
are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional
medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical
treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important
for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
When using dietary
supplements, keep in mind the following:
Other Works Consulted
Chromium (2009). In A DerMarderosian et al., eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.
Murray MT (2013). Obesity. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 1638–1650. St. Louis: Mosby.
June 11, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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