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Overview InformationChromium is a mineral. It is called an "essential trace element" because very small amounts of chromium are necessary for human health. There are two forms of chromium: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. The first is found in foods and supplements and is safe for humans. The second is a known toxin that can cause skin problems and lung cancer.
Chromium is taken by mouth for improving blood sugar control in people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar due to taking steroids and HIV treatments.
It is also taken by mouth for depression, Turner syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lowering "bad" cholesterol, raising "good" cholesterol in people taking heart medications called beta blockers, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, binge eating disorder, and a disease called reactive hypoglycemia.
Some people take chromium by mouth for body conditioning including weight loss, increasing muscle, and decreasing body fat. Chromium is also taken by mouth to improve athletic performance, to increase energy, and to treat a decline in memory and thinking skills in older people that is more than what is normal for their age.
How does it work?Chromium might help keep blood sugar levels normal by improving the way our bodies use insulin.
Uses & Effectiveness
Likely Effective for
- Chromium deficiency. Taking chromium by mouth is effective for preventing chromium deficiency.
Possibly Effective for
- Diabetes. Some evidence shows that taking chromium picolinate (a chemical compound that contains chromium) by mouth, either alone or along with biotin, can lower fasting blood sugar, lower insulin levels, and help insulin work in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, chromium picolinate might decrease weight gain and fat accumulation in people with type 2 diabetes who are taking a class of antidiabetes medications called sulfonylureas.
Higher chromium doses might be more effective and work more quickly. Higher doses might also lower the level of certain blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) in some people.
Early research shows that chromium picolinate might have the same benefits in people with type 1 diabetes, people who have diabetes as a result of steroid treatment, and people with diabetes the develops during pregnancy.
However, researchers are looking carefully at the results that show chromium might be effective for treating diabetes. It might not help everyone. Some researchers think that chromium supplements benefit only people with poor nutrition or low chromium levels. Chromium levels can be below normal in people with diabetes. Other researchers think that chromium might only help people with diabetes and insulin resistance.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Some research shows that taking 15-200 mcg of chromium daily for 6-12 weeks lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in people with slightly high or high cholesterol levels. Other research suggests that taking chromium for 7-16 months lowers triglycerides and LDL and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol. Also, taking chromium alone or along with other supplements seems to reduce levels of blood fats in people with high blood fat levels. However, there is some evidence that taking chromium daily for 10 weeks does not improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Athletic performance. Some early evidence that shows that taking chromium while participating in resistance training can increase weight loss, body fat loss, and lean body mass. However, most reliable research shows that taking chromium by mouth does not enhance body building, strength, or lean body mass.
- Binge eating disorder. Research shows that taking chromium picolinate by mouth daily for 6 months does not affect weight, depression symptoms, or the frequency of binge eating in people with binge eating disorder.
- Prediabetes. Most research shows that taking chromium does not help control sugar levels people with prediabetes.
- Obesity. There is some conflicting evidence about the effects of chromium on obesity. Some limited research shows that chromium might improve weight loss in some people who are overweight or obese. But the amount of weight loss is probably not clinically significant. Furthermore, most research shows that taking chromium by mouth does not improve weight loss.
- Schizophrenia. Research shows that taking 400 mcg of chromium daily for 3 months does not affect weight or mental health in people with schizophrenia.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Insulin resistance caused by drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS (antiretroviral-induced insulin resistance). Early research shows that taking chromium nicotinate or chromium picolinate daily for 8-16 weeks might help reduce insulin resistance in HIV patients receiving antiretroviral therapy.
- A type of depression (atypical depression). Early research shows that chromium picolinate might improve the remission rate in people with atypical depression. However, other evidence shows that taking chromium picolinate does not improve most symptoms of this type of depression.
- Abnormal levels of blood fats caused by certain blood pressure medicine (beta blocker-induced dyslipidemia). Early research shows that taking 600 mcg of chromium daily for 2 months increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol in men who take a class of drugs called beta-blockers.
- Bipolar disorder. Early research shows that taking 600-800 mcg of chromium chloride daily for up to 2 years can decrease the frequency of severe mood disturbances in people with bipolar disorder that is resistant to treatment.
- Decline in memory and thinking skills in older people that is more than what is normal for their age. Research shows that taking 1000 mcg of chromium daily for 12 weeks does not improve memory or depression in older people with mild mental decline. However, images of the brain show that taking chromium can increase some brain activity during memory games.
- Low levels of sugar in the blood (hypoglycemia). Early research shows that taking chromium chloride daily for 3 months improves symptoms and increases blood sugar levels in people with low blood sugar. Other early research shows that taking chromium by mouth daily for 3 months improves symptoms, including chilliness, trembling, and disorientation, in people with low blood sugar.
- A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome). Early evidence shows that taking a specific chromium product twice daily for 12 weeks does not affect weight, waist circumferences, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
- Heart attack. Research shows that having low chromium levels in the toenail is associated with an increased risk for heart attack. However, toenail levels might not accurately measure chromium levels in the body. There is no reliable research showing that chromium supplements can prevent a heart attack.
- A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). Early research shows that taking chromium might improve insulin sensitivity and ovulation in women with PCOS. However, doses lower than 1000 mcg per day don't seem to work. Chromium doesn't seem to improve pregnancy rates or testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
- An inherited condition that causes short stature and learning disability in girls (Turner syndrome). Early research shows that chromium supplements might improve the processing of sugar and fat in people with Turner syndrome.
- High blood sugar related to steroid use.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen taken by mouth: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE for most adults in medicinal amounts, short-term. Up to 1000 mcg per day of chromium has been used safely for up to 6 months. When taken by mouth in these doses for longer periods of time, chromium is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults. Chromium has been used safely in a small number of studies using doses of 200-1000 mcg daily for up to 2 years. Some people experience side effects such as skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood changes, impaired thinking, judgment, and coordination. High doses have been linked to more serious side effects including blood disorders, liver or kidney damage, and other problems. It is not known for sure if chromium is the actual cause of these side effects.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE to use during pregnancy when taken by mouth in amounts that do not exceed "adequate intake" (AI) levels. The AI for pregnant women 14 to 18 years-old is 29 mcg daily. For pregnant women 19 to 50 years-old, it is 30 mcg daily. Chromium is POSSIBLY SAFE to use during pregnancy in amounts higher than the AI levels. However, pregnant women should not take chromium supplements during pregnancy unless advised to do so by their healthcare provider.
Breast-feeding: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE to use while breast-feeding when taken by mouth in amounts that do not exceed "adequate intake" (AI) levels. The AI for breast-feeding women 14 to 18 years-old is 44 mcg daily. For breast-feeding women 19 to 50 years-old it is 45 mcg daily. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking higher amounts of chromium if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts that do not exceed the "adequate intake" (AI) levels for children. For infants 0 to 6 months-old, the AI is 0.2 mcg daily; 7 to 12 months, 5.5 mcg. For children 1 to 3 years-old, the AI is 11 mcg; 4 to 8 years-old, 15 mcg. For boys 9 to 13 years-old, the AI is 25 mcg; 14 to 18 years-old, 35 mcg. For girls 9 to 13 years-old, the AI is 21 mcg; 14 to 18 years-old, 24 mcg. Taking chromium by mouth is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when used in amounts that exceed the AI levels.
Behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia: Chromium might affect brain chemistry and might make behavioral or psychiatric conditions worse. If you have one of these conditions, be careful when using chromium supplements. Pay attention to any changes in how you feel.
Chromate/leather contact allergy: Chromium supplements can cause allergic reactions in people with chromate or leather contact allergy. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and scaling of the skin.
Diabetes: Chromium might lower blood sugar levels too much if taken along with diabetes medications. If you have diabetes, use chromium products cautiously and monitor blood glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments to diabetes medications might be necessary.
Kidney disease: There are at least three reports of kidney damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don't take chromium supplements, if you already have kidney disease.
Liver disease: There are at least three reports of liver damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don't take chromium supplements, if you already have liver disease.
Be cautious with this combination
Insulin interacts with CHROMIUM
Chromium might decrease blood sugar. Insulin is also used to decrease blood sugar. Taking chromium along with insulin might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your insulin might need to be changed.
Levothyroxine (Synthroid) interacts with CHROMIUM
Taking chromium with levothyroxine (Synthroid) might decrease how much levothyroxine (Synthroid) that the body absorbs. This might make levothyroxine (Synthroid) less effective. To help avoid this interaction, levothyroxine (Synthroid) should be taken 30 minutes before or 3-4 hours after taking chromium.
Be watchful with this combination
NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) interacts with CHROMIUM
NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory medications used for decreasing pain and swelling. NSAIDs might increase chromium levels in the body and increase the risk of adverse effects. Avoid taking chromium supplements and NSAIDs at the same time.<br /> Some NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, others), indomethacin (Indocin), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn), piroxicam (Feldene), aspirin, and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- General: The safe and tolerable upper intake levels of chromium are not known. However, daily adequate intake (AI) levels for chromium have been established: men 14 to 50 years, 35 mcg; men 51 and older, 30 mcg; women 19 to 50 years, 25 mcg; women 51 and older, 20 mcg; pregnant women 14 to 18 years, 29 mcg; 19 to 50 years, 30 mcg; breast-feeding women 14 to 18 years, 44 mcg; 19 to 50 years, 45 mcg.
- For diabetes: In people with type 2 diabetes, 200-1000 mcg of chromium taken daily in single or divided doses has been used. Also, a specific combination product providing chromium 600 mcg plus biotin 2 mg daily (Diachrome by Nutrition 21) has been used for up to 3 months. In addition, 1000 mcg of chromium (as chromium yeast) together with 1000 mg of vitamin C and 800 IU of vitamin E daily for 6 months has been used. In people with gestational diabetes, 4-8 mcg/kg of chromium picolinate daily for 8 weeks has been used. In people with high blood sugar due to use of corticosteroid medication, 400 mcg of chromium once daily or 200 mcg three times daily has been used.
- For high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia): 50-250 mcg of chromium as chromium chloride or chromium picolinate, or brewer's yeast containing 15-48 mcg of chromium, has been used 5-7 days weekly for up to 16 months. 200 mcg of chromium polynicotinate along with 100 mg of grape seed extract, taken twice daily for 2 months, has been used. One to two capsules of a specific supplement (Colenon) containing 240 mg of chitosan, 55 mg of Garcinia cambogia extract, and 19 mg of chromium taken daily for 4 weeks has been used.
- General: The safe and tolerable upper intake levels of chromium in children are not known. However, daily adequate intake (AI) levels for chromium have been established: Infants 0 to 6 months, 0.2 mcg; 7 to 12 months, 5.5 mcg; children 1 to 3 years, 11 mcg; 4 to 8 years, 15 mcg; boys 9 to 13 years, 25 mcg; boys 14-18 years. 35 mcg; girls 9 to 13 years, 21 mcg; 14 to 18 years, 24 mcg.
- For high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia): 400-600 mcg of chromium polynicotinate and 1000-1500 mg of glucomannan has been used twice daily for 8 weeks.
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