Diet - chromium

Alternative names 
Chromium in diet

Chromium is an essential mineral that is not made by the body and must be obtained from the diet.

Chromium is important in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Chromium stimulates fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, which are important for brain function and other body processes. It is an activator of several enzymes, which are needed to drive numerous chemical reactions necessary to life. Chromium is also important in insulin metabolism.

Food Sources

The best source of chromium is brewer’s yeast, but many people do not use brewer’s yeast because it causes abdominal distention (a bloated feeling) and nausea.

Other good sources of chromium include the following:

  • Beef  
  • Liver  
  • Eggs  
  • Chicken  
  • Oysters  
  • Wheat germ  
  • Green peppers  
  • Apples  
  • Bananas  
  • Spinach

Black pepper, butter, and molasses are also good sources of chromium, but they are normally consumed only in small amounts.

Side Effects

Chromium deficiency may be seen as as impaired glucose tolerance. It is seen in older people with type 2 diabetes and in infants with protein-calorie malnutrition. Supplementation of chromium helps with management of these conditions, but it is not a substitute for other treatment.

Because of the low absorption and high excretion rates of chromium, toxicity is not common.


There has been great interest in chromium’s potential to help people lose weight and increase their lean body mass, however, multiple studies have not shown any of these effects.

There are no USDA recommended dietary allowances for chromium. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, the safe and adequate daily intakes of chromium are as follows:

  • Infants       o 0 to 6 months: 0.2 mcg       o 7 to 12 months: 5.5 mcg  
  • Children       o 1 to 3 years: 11 mcg       o 4 to 8 years: 15 mcg       o 9 to 13 years: 21 to 25 mcg  
  • Adolescents       o males 14 to 18 years: 35 mcg       o females 14 to 18 years: 24 mcg  
  • Adult males       o 19 to 50 years: 35 mcg       o older than 50: 30 mcg  
  • Adult females       o 19 to 50 years: 25 mcg       o older than 50: 20 mcg       o pregnant: 29 to 30 mcg       o lactating: 44 to 45 mcg

Note: mcg = micrograms

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.

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