Harvard Men's Health Watch

Chromium: The forgotten mineral

It's one of the most common elements in the earth's crust and in seawater, but only tiny amounts are present in the human body. Its role in treating diabetes in animals was described in the 1950s, but its role in human health is still unclear. It's wildly popular in the United States as a supplement for weight loss, but it's not effective in that role. It's chromium "" a forgotten nutrient that may finally get some respect because of new studies of chromium and heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol.

What is chromium?

Most men who think of chromium remember it as the shiny metal in the bumpers of their first cars. Chrome bumpers have gone the way of eight-track tapes, but the metal has a crucial, if incompletely understood, role in human health.

Chromium's best-defined task is to facilitate the action of insulin. Patients deficient in chromium develop severe diabetes that does not respond well to insulin but is corrected by chromium replacement. Big-time chromium deficiency is uncommon, but it used to develop in patients who depended on intravenous feedings. Fortunately, nutritionists have eliminated the problem by adding chromium to total parenteral nutrition (TPN) solutions.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »