Chromium enables insulin (which controls blood sugar levels) to function and helps in the processing (metabolism) and storage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Only a small amount of the chromium in food is absorbed. Chromium is absorbed better when eaten with foods that contain vitamin C and niacin. Supplements do not enhance muscle size or strength in men.
Chromium deficiency is rare in developed countries. Children who are undernourished may have chromium deficiency and grow poorly. Several conditions can reduce the amount of chromium in the body:
Symptoms may include weight loss, confusion, impaired coordination, and a reduced response to sugar (glucose) in blood, increasing the risk of diabetes. Treatment may involve chromium supplements.
Small amounts of chromium taken by mouth are not harmful. In the workplace, people may be exposed to a different, toxic form of chromium. This form results from industrial pollution. This form may irritate the skin, cartilage of the nose, lungs, and digestive tract and may cause lung cancer.
Last full review/revision August 2008 by Larry E. Johnson, MD, PhD