Magnesium and chromium are both essential minerals, which means your body cannot synthesize them, but requires them for survival. These two minerals differ in many respects, including the dosages required. Magnesium is a macromineral, which means your body requires daily amounts in gram-sized dosages. Chromium is a trace mineral, meaning your body only requires minute quantities on a daily basis. Taking too much of a trace mineral can result in toxicity. Consult your doctor before taking magnesium or chromium supplements.
Magnesium is abundant in the human body. About half of your magnesium is contained in your skeletal system, where it contributes to the structure of bones. Magnesium helps keep your muscles flexing, your heart pumping and your nerves sending messages between your body and brain. If you are deficient in magnesium, you may experience vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness; in severe cases, you may notice personality changes, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures and heart spasms. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with diabetes. When your magnesium is depleted, your body’s resistance to the effects of insulin increases.
Chromium is more of a mystery than magnesium. Your body requires it in such small amounts that its functions and proper dosages have not been completely elucidated by science. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that chromium boosts the effectiveness of insulin and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to fully understand your body’s need for chromium. There is little information on the effects of chromium deficiency, with the exception of case studies of three patients whose increased insulin needs were corrected by chromium supplementation.
Both chromium and magnesium are involved in the way your body reacts to insulin. An article in the May 2005 edition of “Archives of Medical Research” suggests that chromium and magnesium, along with antioxidants, may be complementary therapies in treatment of diabetes. Research is needed to confirm these theories.
Since so little is known about chromium, the Institute of Medicine does not have enough information to form a recommended dietary allowance. Instead, a dosage called “adequate intake,” which represents the average intake of a nutrient consumed by healthy individuals, is used. For males between the ages of 19 and 50, adequate daily intake of chromium is 35 mcg. For females between the ages of 19 and 50, adequate daily intake of chromium is 20 mcg.
Magnesium, being a macromineral, has significantly higher dosages. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for males between 19 and 30 years old is 400 mg per day. For females in this age group, the dosage is 310 mg per day.
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University; Magnesium; Jane Higdon; April 2003
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University; Chromium; Jane Higdon; April 2003
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Chromium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- The Merck Manual: Overview of Minerals
- "Archives of Medical Research"; Complementary Therapies for Diabetes: The Case for Chromium, Magnesium and Antioxidants; Fernando Guerrero-Romero, et al.; November 2004