April 19, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Chromium, a trace mineral, has been recognized for many decades for its role in blood sugar management, insulin function, and cholesterol management and recent other findings. In fact, chromium was first discovered in brewer’s yeast almost 100 years ago. Much has changed in the food supply since that time. Western diets and depleted soil conditions have caused much less intake. Many fail to meet the daily adequate intake. It is definitely a concern and something to be mindful about.
Chromium commonly exists in two major types – chromium III and chromium VI. Chromium III is the biologically active form found in food and supplements. Food contains natural chromium III. Sources include brewer’s yeast, oysters, mushrooms, liver, potatoes, beef, and fresh vegetables. Levels within food vary markedly from food item to food item even within the same type due to soil content, agricultural methods, and food processing.
High sugar foods and most dairy contain no chromium. High cooking temperatures and food processing leaches chromium out of foods causing even less intake. Foods rich in oxalates (spinach, berries, rhubarb, etc.) and antacids inhibit absorption of chromium.
Chromium VI is a toxic by-product of the manufacturing industry. It is linked with various health disorders. The 2000 film Erin Brockovich brought to light concerns of chromium VI contamination in ground water.
Chromium III levels in food:
Broccoli ½ c 11 mcg
Ham, 3 oz 3.6 mcg
English muffin, whole wheat 1 muffin 3.6 mcg
Brewer’s yeast, 1 Tbsp 3.3 mcg
Beef, 3 oz 2.0 mcg
Green beans, 1 c 2.0 mcg
Lettuce, 5 oz 1.8 mcg
Turkey breast, 3 oz 1.7 mcg
Tomato 1 c 1.26 mcg
Whole wheat bread 1 slice 1 mcg
Banana, 1 medium 1 mcg
An estimated 90 percent of Americans do not meet Adequate Intakes (AIs) guidelines for chromium. AIs measurements are used rather than the RDA due to decisions by the Food and Nutrition Board in 2001. Adequate intake for boys age 1-13 years need 11 mcg – 25 mcg. Girls age 1-13 years need 11 mcg – 21 mcg. Males age 14 and older require 30-35 mcg and females 14 and older require 21 – 25 mcg.
Medical science does not currently recognize chromium as an essential nutrient that causes serious nutrient deficiencies as research is incomplete. Isolated case reports of chromium deficiency occurred in those who received intravenous TPN feedings in the 1970s and 1980s, but since has been resolved with the addition of chromium to the TPN. Current reports indicate that lower levels of chromium are found in individuals who have dysregulated blood sugar and insulin management, and/or are obese and awaiting gastric bypass/bariatric surgery.