Introduction: Diabetes and obesity are diseases characterized by their increasing incidence every year. When comparing with healthy subjects, the serum levels of chromium (Cr) are lowered in these two diseases. Several studies conducted in laboratory animals with experimentally- induced diabetes demonstrated that supplementation with chromium ions (III) decreased glucose concentration in the blood, reduced the probability of atherosclerosis and heart attack, lowered the levels of cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL). The Importance of chromium is actually challenged due to lack of clear manifestations of Cr deficiency in humans and animals.
Objective: The aim of this review was to present current knowledge about Cr its role in the organism and possible mechanisms of its action also in metabolic disorders such as diabetes or obesity.
State of knowledge: In the last decade, Cr was established to be rather a beneficial than essential trace element in mammals, and has gained popularity as a nutritional supplement and a component of many multivitamin/mineral formulations, fortified food and energy drinks. Cr supplements are widespread for diabetes and obesity treatment, despite conflicting reports on its efficacy. It was suggested that Cr shows a beneficial influence upon glucose and lipid disturbances.
Conclusions: The recent clinical trials provided evidence both in favor and against the importance of Cr in healthy and ill organisms. Unfortunately, also the molecular mechanism by which chromium affects glucose and lipid metabolism is still unclear. Beneficial effects of diet supplementation with different sources of Cr³⁺ can be potentially explained by rather pharmacological than nutritional effects.