Chromium deficiency, glucose intolerance, and neuropathy reversed by chromium supplementation, in a patient receiving long-term total parenteral nutrition

Am J Clin Nutr. 1977 Apr;30(4):531-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/30.4.531.


A white female, now age 40 and receiving total parenteral nutrition for more than 5 years, developed unexpected 15% weight loss after 3 1/2 years of regimen, together with peripheral neuropathy confirmed by nerve conduction measurements. An intravenous glucose tolerance test showed that the fractional rate (K) had decreased to 0.89%/min (normal greater than 1.2). There was observed during this glucose infusion a borderline normal insulin response with a fall in plasma free fatty acids and in plasma leucine. During daily infusion of well over 400 g of glucose, the respiratory quotient was 0.66. Chromium balance was negative. Chromium levels were, in blood 0.55 ng/ml (normal 4.9 to 9.5) and in hair 154 to 175 ng/g (normal greater than 500). Regular insulin daily (45 micron) in the infusate nearly maintained euglycemia but despite this, and even with further glucose intake to restore weight loss, intravenous glucose tolerance test (K) and respiratory quotient were unchanged. Administration of insulin was then stopped and 250 microng of Cr added to the daily total parenteral nutrition infusate for 2 weeks. After this the intravenous glucose tolerance test (K) and respiratory quotient became normal (1.35 and 0.78, respectively). Over the next 5 months insulin was not needed and glucose intake had to be reduced substantially to avoid overweight. In this period nerve conduction and well-being returned to normal. With a maintenance addition of chromium to the total parenteral nutrition infusate (tentatively this addition is 20 microng/day) the patient has remained well for 18 months (to July 1976). These results suggest that relatively isolated chromium deficiency in man, hitherto poorly documented, causes 1) glucose intolerance, 2) inability to utilize glucose for energy, 3) neuropathy with normal insulin levels, 4) high free fatty acid levels and low respiratory quotient and, 5) abnormalities of nitrogen metabolism.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ataxia / drug therapy
  • Ataxia / etiology
  • Body Weight
  • Chromium* / deficiency
  • Chromium* / metabolism
  • Chromium* / therapeutic use
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Neural Conduction
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Parenteral Nutrition* / adverse effects
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total* / adverse effects
  • Paresthesia / drug therapy
  • Paresthesia / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Time Factors


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Chromium
  • Glucose
  • Nitrogen