Just like vitamin supplements, people with metabolic disorders and diabetes take chromium supplements. Some even take it for losing weight.
Chromium is a trace mineral found in two main forms, trivalent chromium (III) and hexavalent chromium (VI). Trivalent chromium is available as supplements while the latter is carcinogenic.
‘Chromium supplements, which are available over the counter, must be taken only if necessary as long-term exposure may make it carcinogenic.’
Now a new study conducted by Lindsay Wu from the University of NSW's School of Medical Sciences and Peter Lay from the University of Sydney's School of Chemistry revealed that long-term use of chromium supplements may lead to increased cancer risk.
The research team treated animal fat cells in the laboratory with a chromium (III) supplement, then mapped the chemical elements within them under an intense X-ray beam at a synchrotron facility.
"We were able to show that oxidation of chromium inside the cell does occur, as it loses electrons and transforms into a carcinogenic form. It's the first time anyone's seen it in a cell," said Dr Wu.
This finding raises concerns about the possible cancer-causing qualities of chromium compounds and the risks of taking chromium nutritional supplements long-term or in high doses.The study was published in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie
"With questionable evidence over the effectiveness of chromium as a dietary supplement, these findings should make people think twice about taking supplements containing large doses of chromium. However, additional research is needed to ascertain whether chromium supplements significantly alter cancer risk," said Professor Lay.