Abstract: Chromium is an essential mineral for human health. It is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It also plays a key role in maintaining glucose homeostasis. Although the natural form of chromium found in food sources is required for human health, chromium leached from industrial waste can be harmful to both adults and fetal development.
What is Chromium and Why Do I Need it?
Chromium is a micronutrient and an essential trace mineral needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Trace minerals mean that the body only needs very small amounts of them, however, those small amounts are extremely important to support your normal metabolic processes.
This mineral can be found on the periodic table of elements atomic number 24 and can appear as 2 different ionic states, +3 and +6. The +3 state of chromium is what is found in food and in supplements. This is the form necessary for human health. The +6 state however can be toxic to your health and damage your DNA.
Did you know? Although commonly touted for its benefits to reduce body fat or improve muscle strength, there is no conclusive evidence that supplements of chromium support either.
In this article we will:
- Review chromium’s role in pregnancy
- Introduce the biology of chromium metabolism in the body
- Explore what prenatal vitamins contain chromium
- Learn foods high in chromium
- Define recommended intake, toxicity, and deficiency
Benefits of Chromium During Pregnancy
Chromium is important for both mom and baby during pregnancy. During fetal development, it is transferred through the placenta to the fetus. It plays a role in regulating a mom’s blood glucose which reduces the risk of gestational diabetes. Poorly regulated blood glucose could lead to low birth weight, premature birth, or even stillbirth.
high doses of industrial chromium exposure during pregnancy impair fetal development and cause reduced fetal weight, mental health and intellectual development problems, skeletal defects, and even increased risk of death.
Early and mid-pregnancy seem to be the most vulnerable period for fetal exposure to industrial chromium, but these results need further confirmation.
Chromium in Action: What Does it Do in the Body?
As mentioned above, chromium is essential for maintaining glucose homeostasis by enhancing the activity of the hormone insulin. It also maintains glucose homeostasis by improving cellular uptake of glucose.
It is mainly absorbed in the part of the small intestine known as the jejunum. Here, other key nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, iron, vitamin A, D, E, K, and magnesium are also absorbed.
It is able to act as an antioxidant in the body by increasing the activity of B-glucuronidase, a key enzyme for carbohydrate metabolism. When there is low B-glucuronidase there are oxidative effects that influence DNA synthesis and expression. Additionally, chromiums' effects on insulin regulation can affect other inflammatory and oxidative stress pathways through a cascading effect.
Is Chromium in Common Prenatal Vitamins?
You don't need additional supplementation of chromium during pregnancy since it is found in many common prenatal supplements. Excessive chromium, obtained through supplements, can lead to negative birth outcomes so it is important to consult a dietitian or your OB-Gyn if you are considering supplementation. Below is a list of some common supplements and the amount of chromium included.
H3: Name of the Prenatal | Amount | Type
|Name of the Prenatal||Amount||Type|
|NatureMade Prenatal Multi + DHA:||None||N/A|
|FullWell Prenatal:||120 mcg||(Chromium nicotinate)|
|Seeking Health: Optimal Prenatal:||120 mcg||(Chromium nicotinate glycinate chelate)|
|Perelel: Conception Support and All Trimesters Pack:||30 mcg||(Chromium nicotinate glycinate chelate)|
Best foods with Chromium During Pregnancy
Chromium is found in many food sources including meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is often lower in dairy products. The amount of chromium in your food varies by soil quality and environmental influences of where your produce is farmed.
Top 5 Chromium-rich Foods Include:
- Grape juice
- Brewers yeast
- Whole grains
- Tomato juice
Did you know? Chromium found naturally in food is safe and essential to health, however industrial chromium is toxic to the body and causes DNA damage
How Much Chromium Should I Take?
Sufficient levels of chromium intake are defined as adequate intake (AI) rather than a recommended dietary intake (RDA) due to insufficient evidence to establish recommendations that meet 97-98% of the healthy population's needs.
The AI for chromium is 30 mcg of trivalent (+3) chromium. This is commonly achieved and deficiency of chromium is rare. That being said, there is minimal research conducted on average chromium levels in the US population, and its effects on metabolism, more research is needed to determine more conclusive recommendations.
Did you know? Niacin and vitamin C can help your body absorb more chromium.
How much is too much chromium?
There is no tolerable upper level established from chromium, as there are little to no adverse effects reported from large amounts consumed through the diet, as the +3 form.
Certain medications may increase chromium levels such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Prostaglandin inhibitors
Additionally, it is important to talk to your physician if you're taking chromium supplements at the same time as antidiabetic medication as both have insulin-regulating factors that could have compounding effects and increase the risk of hypoglycemia.
It is important to remember that industrialized chromium in the +6 form is toxic to the body and can cause DNA damage and have negative health outcomes for fetal development both long and short term.
What Happens if I Don’t Have Enough Chromium?
Since chromium is necessary for the uptake of glucose and your body's insulin response, low chromium could lead to impaired glucose tolerance and an increased risk of diabetes. Additional research finds a small association between chromium deficiency and atherosclerosis.
Chromium supplements may interact with other medications and nutrients, therefore, altering absorption and utilization.
Key nutrients that interact with chromium absorption include zinc and iron. Since they are competing for similar transporters in the body it is important to have a balanced intake of these nutrients.
Medications that may reduce chromium levels include:
- H2 blockers
- Proton pump inhibitors
Did you know? Some research finds adequate chromium is proactive against polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Chromium is an essential mineral for human health. It is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates of fats and plays a key role in maintaining glucose homeostasis. Although the natural form of chromium found in food sources is required for human health, chromium leached from industrial waste can be harmful to both adults and fetal development. There are a variety of interactions from both nutrients and medications that can increase, or decrease the effectiveness of chromium in the body, so becoming knowledge about these interactions can help you make informed decisions about your health.
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Pierzak Monika. Chromium and its role in the human body including the antidiabetic action. Journal of Education, Health and Sport. 2018;8(9):1740-1746. eISNN 2391-8306. DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1439468 http://ojs.ukw.edu.pl/index.php/johs/article/view/6141