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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Controversial Chromium: Does the Superstar Mineral of the Mountebanks Receive Appropriate Attention from Clinicians and Nutritionists?

Author
item Nielsen, Forrest

Submitted to: Nutrition Today
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: A review of the nutritional importance of chromium and the benefits of chromium supplements reveals that, in spite of shortcomings in the evidence, chromium most likely is an essential nutrient for higher animals, including humans. Also, because chromium should be considered a nutrient, consumption of chromium supplements when chromium status is adequate is unlikely to have a significant effect on such things as body composition, weight loss, muscle-building or aging as touted by the lay media or in advertisements by the supplement industry. However, high intakes of chromium possibly could be of benefit in the treatment of diabetes. Although the estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake for chromium is 50-200 micrograms per day, the lower value is much higher than that needed by most individuals; this is not surprising because the values were set using analytical data that recent research has shown are erroneously high. Thus, although many people consume less than 50 micrograms per day, a majority of these probably are not chromium- deficient. Some data, however, suggest that intakes of less than 20 micrograms per day should be of concern; based on dietary surveys, there are a significant number of people consuming less than this amount. Thus some people could benefit from an increased intake of chromium; the best and most enjoyable way of doing this is by eating a varied diet incorporating foods and beverages that are good sources of chromium, not by using chromium supplements.

Technical Abstract: A review of the nutritional importance of chromium and the benefits of chromium supplements reveals that, in spite of shortcomings in the evidence, chromium most likely is an essential nutrient for higher animals, including humans. Also, because chromium should be considered a nutrient, consumption of chromium supplements when chromium status is adequate is unlikely to have a significant effect on such things as body composition, weight loss, muscle-building or aging as touted by the lay media or in advertisements by the supplement industry. However, high intakes of chromium possibly could be of benefit in the treatment of diabetes. Although the estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake for chromium is 50-200 micrograms per day, the lower value is much higher than that needed by most individuals; this is not surprising because the values were set using analytical data that recent research has shown are erroneously high. Thus, although many people consume less than 50 micrograms per day, a majority of these probably are not chromium- deficient. Some data, however, suggest that intakes of less than 20 micrograms per day should be of concern; based on dietary surveys, there are a significant number of people consuming less than this amount. Thus some people could benefit from an increased intake of chromium; the best and most enjoyable way of doing this is by eating a varied diet incorporating foods and beverages that are good sources of chromium, not by using chromium supplements.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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