Chromium was proposed to be an essential trace element over 50 years ago and has been accepted as an essential element for over 30 years. However, the studies on which chromium’s status are based are methodologically flawed. Whether chromium is an essential element has been examined for the first time in carefully controlled metal-free conditions using a series of purified diets containing various chromium contents. Male Zucker lean rats were housed in specially designed metal-free cages for 6 months and fed the AIN-93G diet with no added chromium in the mineral mix component of the diet, the standard AIN-93G diet, the standard AIN-93G diet supplemented with 200 μg Cr/kg, or the standard AIN-93G diet supplemented with 1,000 μg Cr/kg. The chromium content of the diet had no effect on body mass or food intake. Similarly, the chromium content of the diet had no effect on glucose levels in glucose tolerance or insulin tolerance tests. However, a distinct trend toward lower insulin levels under the curve after a glucose challenge was observed with increasing chromium content in the diet; rats on the supplemented AIN-93G diets had significantly lower areas (P < 0.05) than rats on the low-chromium diet. The studies reveal that a diet with as little chromium as reasonably possible had no effect on body composition, glucose metabolism, or insulin sensitivity compared with a chromium-“sufficient” diet. Together with the results of other recent studies, these results clearly indicate that chromium can no longer be considered an essential element.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Schwarz K, Mertz W (1959) Arch Biochem Biophys 85:292–295
Mertz W, Schwarz K (1955) Arch Biochem Biophys 58:504–506
Schwarz K, Mertz W (1957) Arch Biochem Biophys 72:515–518
Vincent JB, Stalling D (2007) In: Vincent JB (ed) The nutritional biochemistry of chromium(III). Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 1–40
Woolliscroft J, Barbosa J (1977) J Nutr 107:1702–1706
National Research Council (1980) Recommended dietary allowances, 9th edn. Report of the Committee on Dietary Allowances, Division of Biological Sciences, Assembly of Life Science, Food and Nutrition Board, Commission on Life Science, National Research Council. National Academy Press, Washington
National Research Council (1989) Recommended dietary allowances, 10th edn. Subcommittee on the Tenth Edition of the RDAs, Food and Nutrition Board, Commission on Life Science, National Research Council. National Academy Press, Washington
National Research Council (2002) Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. A report of the Panel on Micronutrients, Subcommittee on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients and of Interpretations and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes, and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. National Academy of Sciences, Washington
Striffler JS, Law JS, Polansky MM, Bhathena SJ, Anderson RA (1995) Metabolism 44:1314–1320
Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, Reiser S (1990) Am J Clin Nutr 51:864–868
Striffler JS, Polansky MM, Anderson RA (1999) Metabolism 48:1063–1068
Striffler JS, Polansky MM, Anderson RA (1998) Metabolism 47:396–400
Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM (1997) J Am Coll Nutr 16:273–279
Mohr HE, Hopkins LL Jr (1972) Lab Anim Sci 22:96–98
Polansky MM, Anderson RA (1979) Lab Anim Sci 29:357–359
Reeves PG, Nielsen FH, Fahey GC Jr (1993) J Nutr 123:1939–1951
Reeves PG (1997) J Nutr 127:838S–841S
Stout MD, Nyska A, Collins BJ, Witt KL, Kissling GE, Malarkey DE, Hooth MJ (2009) Food Chem Toxicol 47:729–733
Bennett R, Adams B, French A, Neggers Y, Vincent JB (2006) Biol Trace Elem Res 113:53–66
Clodfelder BJ, Gullick BM, Lukaski HC, Neggers Y, Vincent JB (2005) J Biol Inorg Chem 10:119–130
Vincent JB (2010) Dalton Trans 39:3787–3794
Anderson RA, Kozlovsky AS (1985) Am J Clin Nutr 41:1177–1183
Vincent JB (2001) Polyhedron 20:1–26
Jeejeebhoy KN (1999) Nutr Rev 57:329–335
This project was supported by National Research Initiative grant 2009-35200-05200 from the USDA Cooperative State, Research, Educational, and Extension Service to J.B.V. and J.F.R. The authors wish to thank Dyets for working with us to obtain diets with a minimal chromium background concentration and Robert Argent, Jessica Autry, Paul Lara, Kirsten Ansorge, Leigh Ann Pledger, Lauren Bryant, James Shivers, Philip Dishuck, and Kyndal Sonnier for assistance with this work.
About this article
Cite this article
Di Bona, K.R., Love, S., Rhodes, N.R. et al. Chromium is not an essential trace element for mammals: effects of a “low-chromium” diet. J Biol Inorg Chem 16, 381–390 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00775-010-0734-y
- Glucose tolerance tests
- Insulin sensitivity
- Essential trace element