What is Chromium?
Chromium (Cr), an essential trace nutrient, is a component of metalloenzymes. Chromium functions as a coenzyme in various metabolic reactions.
AdvertisementsChromium deficiency had been observed in patients on total parenteral nutrition with symptoms like glucose intolerance, altered lipid metabolism, encephalopathy and peripheral neuropathy. Supplementing the parenteral nutrition solution with this trace nutrient is found to resolve these symptoms.
Chromium benefits and functions
- Cr exists in multiple valence states. The trivalent Cr is the stable and biologically active form.
- Chromium was first identified as a nutrient for its presence in Glucose Tolerance Factor, which corrected the symptoms of hyperglycemia in rats.
- Glucose Tolerance Factor is found to be a combination of nicotinamide and three amino acids (glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid) with this trace nutrient.
- Being a component of metalloenzymes, Cr functions as a coenzyme.
- Cr is important in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
- Diabetics have been found to be deficient in Chromium.
- It is believed to have a role in glucose homeostasis.
- Cr function as a regulator of insulin reactions and enhances insulin activity.
- Research studies suggest that Cr may promote the production of insulin as well as its binding to the receptors.
- Research studies suggest a role for chromium in elevating HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and lowering cholesterol levels.
Chromium food sourcesTrivalent Cr is found in foods and is also available as dietary supplement. Chromium is available in fruits, vegetables (green beans and broccoli), nuts, egg yolk, whole grains, cereals, brewer's yeast and meat products. The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, has set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) for chromium at 35 mcg/day for adult males (19 to 50 years) and 25 mcg/day for females. Pregnant and lactating women will require 30 mcg/day and 45 mcg/day respectively.
Chromium absorption and excretionMuch of the dietary Cr is excreted in the feces. Less than 0.4% to 2.5% of dietary Cr is absorbed by the in intestines. Cr is absorbed in the small intestines and its total body concentration regulates its absorption. The absorption of this trace element is also regulated by its intake and is inversely proportional. It is primarily transported by binding to transferrin and albumin. Most of the absorbed Cr is excreted rapidly in the urine.
Chromium deficiency causesReported cases of Cr deficiency are very rare.
- Chromium deficiency is observed in patients on total parenteral nutrition.
- Serum Cr level is high in newborns and declines with age.
- THe Chromium concentrations in hair, sweat, and urine are found to decrease significantly with age.
- In old age there is increase in urinary excretion of this trace nutrient.
- As dietary Cr and iron compete for the common binding sites, excess intake of iron interferes with Cr absorption.
- In cases of severe acute malnutrition and malabsorption disorders, Cr levels may decrease below the optimum levels.
Chromium deficiency symptomsThe foremost symptom of low Cr levels is impaired glucose tolerance. It is a pre-diabetic state of hyperglycemia and is associated with symptoms of insulin resistance. Glucose intolerance may progress into type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Patients receiving total parenteral nutrition were found develop symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. The infusion of chromium resulted in clinical remission of symptoms.
Another symptom of low Cr levels is weight loss. In the absence of sufficient Cr and glucose tolerance, apart from urinary loss of sugar, the body is not able to use the sugar leading symptoms like constant hunger and continuous weight loss. Cr supplementation corrects the unnatural weight loss.
Extreme fatigue is a symptom of Cr insufficiency. As the body is not able to properly utilize sugar for energy production severe fatigue and extreme weakness is experienced.
Chromium deficiency treatmentThe inadequate levels of Cr can be corrected by taking food products rich in this nutrient. Cr supplements are also available. In patients on TPN, Cr supplement is added to IV fluids.
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