Is chromium a trace essential metal?

Biofactors. 2000;11(3):149-62. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520110301.


If chromium is an essential metal it must have a specific role in an enzyme or cofactor, and a deficiency should produce a disease or impairment of function. To date, no chromium-containing glucose tolerance factor has been characterized, the purpose of the low-molecular-weight chromium-binding protein is questionable, and no direct interaction between chromium and insulin has been found. Furthermore, chromium3+ is treated like the toxic metals arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in animals. Chromium3+ may be involved in chromium6+-induced cancers because chromium6+ is converted to chromium3+ in vivo, and chromium3+ is genotoxic and mutagenic. Although there is no direct evidence of chromium deficiencies in humans, dietary supplements exist to provide supraphysiological doses of absorbable chromium3+. Chromium3+ may act clinically by interfering with iron absorption, decreasing the high iron stores that are linked to diabetes and heart disease. If so, this would make chromium3+ a pharmacological agent, not an essential metal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Carcinogens
  • Chromium* / deficiency
  • Chromium* / metabolism
  • Chromium* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Trace Elements* / metabolism


  • Carcinogens
  • Trace Elements
  • Chromium
  • Iron