Australian foods have been found to contain lower levels of this mineral, suggesting that the average Australian diet is likely to be lower than the minimum suggested adequate daily intake for chromium of 50 mcg/day (1).
One study assessed the chromium content in Australian foods from 150 different foods selected from across the five main food groups and found that most fruits and vegetables, fats and oils, and refined grains contained low amounts of chromium (2).
Chromium has been shown to play an important role in glycaemic control and regulation of blood glucose levels as well as having secondary benefits for antioxidant systems. Chromium deficiency may be a precursor to the development of insulin resistance, and thus is associated with hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), and obesity. For this reason, numerous randomised controlled trials have been conducted, some of which have demonstrated improvements in blood glucose metabolism with supplementation (3).
One of the most commonly cited intervention studies was a randomised controlled trial conducted in 1997, which examined the effects of chromium supplementation in 180 adults aged 35 to 65 years old with type 2 diabetes. The study participants were given 100mcg or 500mcg of chromium (as sodium picolinate) twice daily for four months, or placebo. The study found that subjects supplemented with chromium had improved fasting glucose concentrations, as well as improved HbA1c after 4 months, compared to placebo. HbA1c is a robust measure of blood glucose control because it reflects long-term blood glucose levels (3).
While it is difficult to say what effect chromium supplementation might have in healthy individuals, most evidence seems to support its role in regulating blood glucose and insulin. Importantly, given the lower levels of chromium found in many plant-based foods, there might be a role in supplementing the diet with chromium in people who follow plant-based diets, especially given that dietary supplements tend to have similar bioavailability to food-sources of chromium (3).
- Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2015). Chromium. In Herbs & Natural Chromium Australian adequate Supplements. An evidence-based guide (4th ed., pp. 180-189). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier Australia.
- Ashton et al. 2003. The chromium content of some Australian foods. Food Australia. 55. 201-204
- Chromium. National Institutes of Health. Office of dietary supplements. [cited 23 Nov 2021). Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/#en39