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Chromium

Uses

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
3 Stars
High Cholesterol
200 to 500 mcg daily
Chromium supplementation has reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol in double-blind and other controlled trials.

Chromium supplementation has reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol in double-blind and other controlled trials, although other trials have not found these effects. One double-blind trial found that high amounts of chromium (500 mcg per day) in combination with daily exercise was highly effective, producing nearly a 20% decrease in total cholesterol levels in just 13 weeks.

Brewer's yeast , which contains readily absorbable and biologically active chromium, has also lowered serum cholesterol. People with higher blood levels of chromium appear to be at lower risk for heart disease. A reasonable and safe intake of supplemental chromium is 200 mcg per day. People wishing to use brewer's yeast as a source of chromium should look for products specifically labeled "from the brewing process" or "brewer's yeast," since most yeast found in health food stores is not brewer's yeast, and does not contain chromium. Optimally, true brewer's yeast contains up to 60 mcg of chromium per tablespoon, and a reasonable intake is 2 tablespoons per day.

3 Stars
Hypoglycemia
200 mcg daily
Taking chromium may help stabilize blood sugar swings.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

3 Stars
Type 2 Diabetes
200 to 500 mcg daily, or more under doctor supervision
Chromium has been shown to be useful in treating type 2 diabetes in several ways, including by improving blood glucose control.

Chromium status appears to be an important factor in glucose metabolism: individuals with lower chromium levels are more likely to have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes than those with higher levels, and low chromium status is associated with poor glycemic control and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, chromium supplementation has been shown to improve glucose control, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic variables in people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

In one placebo-controlled trial that included 64 participants with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, taking 200 mcg per day of chromium was associated with greater weight loss, lower fasting glucose and insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced blood pressure after four months. In addition, chromium supplementation led to lower levels of inflammatory markers and higher antioxidant capacity. A meta-analysis of 28 other randomized controlled trials concluded that chromium supplementation, particularly chromium chloride or chromium picolinate, reduces fasting blood glucose levels, triglyceride levels, and hemoglobin A1c values, and increases HDL-cholesterol levels. Because of its ability to help regulate dopamine and serotonin activity, some researchers propose chromium may be especially beneficial in people with type 2 diabetes who also suffer from depression or binge eating.

Studies showing beneficial effects from chromium supplementation have generally used 200 mcg per day or more. Many doctors recommend up to 1,000 mcg per day for people with diabetes.

2 Stars
High Triglycerides
200 mg daily
Studies have shown that chromium supplementation may reduce triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes.

In a double-blind trial, 30 people with type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes received 200 mcg of chromium per day (as chromium picolinate) for two months and a placebo for an additional two months. The average TG level was significantly lower (by an average of 17.4%) during chromium supplementation than during the placebo period.Some, but not all, trials support these findings. It is not clear whether chromium supplementation affects TG levels in non-diabetics, but some evidence suggests that it does not.

2 Stars
Metabolic Syndrome
200 to 500 mcg daily, or more under doctor supervision
Supplementing with chromium may be beneficial in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Chromium is a mineral needed in trace amounts by the body. It has been widely studied for its potential benefits in people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. A 23-year observational study found those with poorer baseline chromium status were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those with better chromium status. However, clinical trials examining the effects of chromium supplementation in people with metabolic syndrome have been mixed.

In one placebo-controlled trial with 70 subjects affected by metabolic syndrome, those receiving 300 micrograms of chromium (in the form of chromium-enriched yeast) per day had no changes in measures of glucose and lipid metabolism but had a decrease in resting heart rate. While high heart rate is not typically considered part of metabolic syndrome, it is linked to heart disease. In a placebo-controlled trial that enrolled 59 subjects diagnosed with high glucose levels, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome, taking either 500 micrograms or 1,000 micrograms of chromium (as chromium picolinate) daily for six months did not change any of the measured metabolic parameters. Chromium picolinate, at a dose of 1,000 micrograms per day, was also ineffective for improving metabolic markers in a placebo-controlled trial with 63 participants with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Nevertheless, a meta-analysis of 28 randomized controlled trials in people with type 2 diabetes concluded chromium not only improves markers of glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity, but also decreases triglyceride levels and increases HDL-cholesterol levels. The evidence therefore indicates chromium may specifically benefit those with metabolic syndrome co-occurring with type 2 diabetes.

2 Stars
Type 1 Diabetes
200 mcg daily
Chromium has been shown to help improve glucose tolerance in people with type 1 diabetes.
Chromium, a trace mineral that appears to increase the effectiveness of insulin, has been reported to improve blood glucose control in people with various forms of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes. Low chromium levels have been correlated with poor glucose control and human case studies and animal research suggest chromium supplementation may improve glycemic control and prevent some diabetic complications. The typical amount of chromium used in studies is 200 micrograms one to three times per day. Supplementation with chromium could potentially enhance the effects of drugs for diabetes (for example, insulin or other blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium only under the supervision of a doctor.
1 Star
Athletic Performance
Refer to label instructions
Chromium may play a role in altering body composition. Research has suggested that chromium picolinate might increase fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain when used with a weight-training program.
Chromium, primarily in a form called chromium picolinate, has been studied for its potential role in altering body composition. Preliminary research in animals and humans suggested that chromium picolinate might increase fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain when used with a weight-training program. However, most studies have found little to no effect of chromium on body composition or strength. One group of researchers has reported significant reductions in body fat in double-blind trials using 200 to 400 mcg per day of chromium for six to twelve weeks in middle-aged adults, but the methods used in these studies have been criticized.
1 Star
Depression
Refer to label instructions
In a few case reports, chromium has improved mood in people with a type of depression called dysthymic disorder.

There have been five case reports of chromium supplementation (200–400 mcg per day) significantly improving mood in people with a type of depression called dysthymic disorder who were also taking the antidepressant drug sertraline (Zoloft). These case reports, while clearly limited and preliminary in scope, warrant further research to better understand the benefits, if any, of chromium supplementation in people with depression.

1 Star
Obesity
Refer to label instructions
A review of several studies concluded that supplementing with chromium picolinate may have a beneficial effect on weight loss.
The mineral chromium plays an essential role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and in the action of insulin. Chromium, usually in a form called chromium picolinate, has been studied for its potential role in altering body composition. Chromium has primarily been studied in body builders, with conflicting results. In people trying to lose weight, a double-blind study found that 600 mcg per day of niacin-bound chromium helped some participants lose more fat and less muscle. However, three other double-blind trials have found no effect of chromium picolinate on weight loss, though in one of these trials lean body mass that was lost during a weight-loss diet was restored by continuing to supplement chromium after the diet. A recent comprehensive review combining the results of ten published and unpublished double-blind studies concluded that chromium picolinate supplementation may have a small beneficial effect on weight loss.

How It Works

How to Use It

A daily intake of 200 mcg is recommended by many doctors.

Where to Find It

The best source of chromium is true brewer's yeast. Nutritional yeast and torula yeast do not contain significant amounts of chromium and are not suitable substitutes for brewer's yeast. Chromium is also found in grains and cereals, though much of it is lost when these foods are refined. Some brands of beer contain significant amounts of chromium.

Possible Deficiencies

Most people eat less than the U.S. National Academy of Science's recommended range of 50–200 mcg per day. The high incidence of adult-onset diabetes suggests to some doctors that many people should be supplementing with small amounts of chromium.

Interactions

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

Chromium supplementation may enhance the effects of drugs for diabetes (e.g., insulin, blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium only under the supervision of a doctor.

Preliminary research has found that vitamin C increases the absorption of chromium.1

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • Cortisone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone Sod Phosphate-PF

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydrocortisone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydrocortisone Sod Succinate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydromorphone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone Sodium Succ

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Triamcinolone

    Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

Reduce Side Effects

  • Cortisone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone Sod Phosphate-PF

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydrocortisone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydrocortisone Sod Succinate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Hydromorphone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Methylprednisolone Sodium Succ

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone Acetate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Prednisone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

  • Triamcinolone

    Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.

Support Medicine

  • Sertraline

    There have been five case reports of chromium supplementation (200–400 mcg per day) significantly improving mood in people with a type of depression called dysthymic disorder who were also taking sertraline. These case reports, while clearly limited and preliminary in scope, warrant a controlled trial to better understand the benefits, if any, of chromium supplementation in people taking this drug.

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • none

Explanation Required

  • Glyburide

    Chromium supplements have been shown to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Consequently, supplementing with chromium could reduce blood sugar levels in people with taking glyburide, potentially resulting in abnormally low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). While chromium supplementation may be beneficial for people with diabetes, its use in combination with glyburide or with any other blood sugar-lowering medication should be supervised by a doctor.

  • Insulin

    Chromium supplements have been shown to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Consequently, supplementing with chromium could reduce blood sugar levels in people with taking insulin, potentially resulting in abnormally low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). While chromium supplementation may be beneficial for people with diabetes, its use in combination with insulin or with any other blood sugar-lowering medication should be supervised by a doctor.

  • Metformin

    Chromium supplements have been shown to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Consequently, supplementing with chromium could reduce blood sugar levels in people with taking metformin, potentially resulting in abnormally low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). While chromium supplementation may be beneficial for people with diabetes, its use in combination with metformin or with any other blood sugar-lowering medication should be supervised by a doctor.

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Side Effects

In supplemental amounts (typically 50–300 mcg per day), chromium has not been found to cause toxicity in humans. While there are a few reports of people developing medical problems while taking chromium, a cause-effect relationship was not proven. One study suggested that chromium in very high concentrations in a test tube could cause chromosomal mutations in ovarian cells of hamsters.2 , 3 Chromium picolinate can be altered by antioxidants or hydrogen peroxide in the body to a form that could itself create free radical damage.4 In theory, these changes could increase the risk of cancer, but so far, chromium intake has not been linked to increased incidence of cancer in humans.5

One report of severe illness (including liver and kidney damage) occurring in a person who was taking 1,000 mcg of chromium per day has been reported.6 However, chromium supplementation was not proven to be the cause of these problems. Another source claimed that there have been reports of mild heart rhythm abnormalities with excessive chromium ingestion.7 However, no published evidence supports this assertion.

Three single, unrelated cases of toxicity have been reported from use of chromium picolinate. A case of kidney failure appeared after taking 600 mcg per day for six weeks.8 A case of anemia, liver dysfunction, and other problems appeared after four to five months of 1,200–2,400 mcg per day.9 A case of a muscle disease known as rhabdomyolysis appeared in a body builder who took 1200 mcg over 48 hours.10 Whether these problems were caused by chromium picolinate or, if so, whether other forms of chromium might have the same effects at these high amounts remains unclear. No one should take more than 300 mcg per day of chromium without the supervision of a doctor.

References

1. Offenbacher EG. Promotion of chromium absorption by ascorbic acid. Trace Elements Electrolytes 1994;11:178-81.

2. Sterns DM, Belbruno JJ, Wetterhahn KE. A prediction of chromium (III) accumulation in humans from chromium dietary supplements. FASEB J 1995;9:1650-7.

3. Sterns DM, Wise JP, Patierno SR, Wetterhahn KE. Chromium (III) picolinate produces chromosome damage in Chinese hamster ovary cells. FASEB J 1995;9:1643-9.

4. Speetjens JK, Collins RA, Vincent JB, Woski SA. The nutritional supplement chromium (III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA. Chem Res Toxicol 1999;12:483-7.

5. Garland M, Morris JS, Colditz GA, et al. Toenail trace element levels and breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol 1996;144:653-60.

6. Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Guathier I, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998;32:428-31.

7. Shannon M. Alternative medicines toxicology: a review of selected agents. J Clin Toxicol 1999;37:709-13.

8. Wasser WG, Feldman NS. Chronic renal failure after ingestion of over-the-counter chromium picolinate. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:410 [letter].

9. Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Guathier I, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998;32:428-31.

10. Martin WR, Fuller RE. Suspected chromium picolinate-induced rhabdomyolysis. Pharmacotherapy 1998;18:860-2.

 

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