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Merck Manual

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Chromium Deficiency


Larry E. Johnson

, MD, PhD, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020
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Chromium deficiency is rare in developed countries and can result from intravenous feeding (total parenteral nutrition) used for a long time.

Chromium enables insulin (which controls blood sugar levels) to function and helps in the processing (metabolism) and storage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. However, it is not clear whether chromium should be considered an essential (required) trace element. Experts have not yet determined whether chromium supplements are useful for people with diabetes. People with diabetes should not take chromium supplements unless they are supervised by a diabetes expert.

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.

Chromium supplements do not enhance muscle size or strength.

Symptoms of chromium deficiency may include weight loss, confusion, impaired coordination, and a reduced response to sugar (glucose) in blood, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Treatment of chromium deficiency may involve chromium supplements.

(See also Overview of Minerals.)

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