Chromium: Deficiency & Toxicity Symptoms

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  • 0:02 Chromium
  • 1:38 Deficiency
  • 3:40 Toxicity
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Chromium is a trace mineral that helps maintain normal blood glucose levels in your body. Learn who is at risk of deficiency and how a deficiency can lead to diabetes-like symptoms, as well as the issues, if any, related to chromium toxicity in this lesson.


There's no doubt that Americans like to eat refined carbohydrates. These refined foods are sometimes referred to as white foods and include white bread, pasta and white rice. They're white in color because when the whole grain they originate from goes through the refining or milling process, the tough, brown outer coating of the grain is removed, leaving the tender white part of the grain behind. This processing protects foods from spoiling, and it makes them easier to chew. Yet, we pay a big nutritional price for refining our foods because this processing also strips away many minerals.

One of those minerals lost in milling is chromium, which is a trace mineral needed to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Knowing that chromium is lost during processing makes it easy to see why good food sources of chromium include whole grains and poor sources include refined grains. Of course, if you just can't seem to fit whole grains into your diet, you can obtain chromium from brewer's yeast, broccoli and a few other vegetables, as well as nuts and even certain spices, like black pepper.

Because of our love for refined carbs, and the fact that chromium becomes harder to absorb as we age, we see that many Americans are at least mildly low in chromium, yet a full-blown deficiency is rare. In this lesson, we will discuss what happens to your body when it's deficient in chromium, and look at what happens, if anything, if you take in too much.


Now, we mentioned that chromium helps to maintain normal blood glucose levels. So to best understand the effects of chromium deficiency, it will help to gain a bit of knowledge about blood glucose, or blood sugar, as it's commonly called. We think of this substance when we discuss a common health condition called diabetes, which is a disorder characterized by high levels of blood glucose.

Blood glucose levels are able to climb in a diabetic because their body does not produce sufficient levels of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that takes extra glucose in the blood and moves it into your body cells where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. So if insulin is like the superhero of blood glucose removal, we could say that chromium is his faithful sidekick.

So the sidekick, I mean chromium, makes insulin work better by helping with the passage of glucose into the cells. It's almost as if chromium holds the door of your body cell open so insulin can more easily push sugar inside. Knowing this close relationship between chromium and insulin, it's fairly easy to see that a chromium deficiency will result in diabetic-like symptoms that include elevated blood glucose. This is due to the fact that insulin is just not as efficient at doing its job without chromium.

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