Chromium is a mineral found in trace amounts in the body. It improves insulin sensitivity, so it’s essential for the storage of glucose and metabolism. Chromium also has a role in protein and fat absorption. There are two forms of Chromium, including hexavalent and trivalent. The latter is found in foods; hexavalent chromium can be found in industrial pollution.
Chromium is easy to get since it’s found in small quantities in different types of food. You will get your daily recommended allowance for Chromium from a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, dairy products, whole grains, and meat. The daily recommended allowance for Chromium is determined by sex and age. Chromium supplements are sold to aid weight loss and treat depression.
Chromium supplements are mainly used to aid weight loss and control blood sugar. Chromium works by improving insulin sensitivity in your body. Insulin is vital for the storage of proteins, fats, and carbs in the body and improved metabolism.[iii] However, there is no enough evidence on how chromium supplements function in the body. It’s found in many foods, but the exact amount present in these foods isn’t easy to determine.
Also, it’s hard to determine whether an individual has chromium deficiency and whether its supplements are helpful in such cases. Most of the studies that have been undertaken on chromium supplements aren’t conclusive, but the type of chromium investigated and doses required also varies.
While the benefits of taking chromium supplements to help lose weight aren’t conclusive, the hypothesis that it might help lose weight is based on the fact that regulated blood sugar usually results in decreased cravings.[iv] Claims that chromium helps increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat aren’t supported by scientific research.
Type II Diabetes
Reviews of different studies show that supplements considerably reduced triglyceride levels and blood sugar in people with diabetes. A review of 25 peer-reviewed studies found that taking 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate supplements enhanced glycemic control with no increased side effects than placebo.[v]
Today, chromium is highly effective for treating various subtypes of depression, which affect appetite regulation and carbohydrate cravings, such as atypical depression. For instance, a study showed that chromium might affect symptoms like increased appetite, diurnal mood variation, and carbohydrate cravings.
Ingesting tiny amounts of this mineral could result in a range of health problems, including some that look similar to those of diabetes, like muscle weakness, fatigue, anxiety, neuropathy, impaired glucose tolerance, and weight loss. Luckily, Chromium deficiency is rare in the United States and has largely been found among people fed via nutritional support.
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
As mentioned above, lack of enough Chromium could result in many health problems, and impaired glucose is one. Impaired glucose tolerance results in reduced control of blood sugar among people with type II diabetes.[i]
Lack Of Cholesterol Control
Failure to get enough chromium could lead to less effective control of cholesterol. This will ultimately lead to a high chance of heart disease and atherosclerosis. In rats, lack of enough chromium has been shown to cause aortic plaques and cause increased serum cholesterol levels.[ii] Nonetheless, adding enough chromium to the diet prevents the surge of serum cholesterol and the formation of the aortic plaques.
Moreover, chromium losses are often found in diets with high amounts of refined foods, such as simple sugars, which aggravate the issue because these foods are low in chromium and increase the loss of chromium through urine.
Possible Side Effects
Many people can take chromium without any side effects. However, a few people might experience some side effects of chromium supplements. There have been some reports of the supplements causing allergic reactions, mood changes, headaches, sleep disturbances, and irregular heartbeats. Also, chromium might increase the risks of liver damage or kidney damage. If you have liver or kidney disease, don’t take chromium supplements without first consulting a doctor.
You should get help if you have symptoms of an allergic reaction after taking chromium supplements: difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling of your throat, tongue, lips, and face. You should completely stop using chromium supplements and immediately call a doctor if you have:
- Liver problems – jaundice (yellow of eyes or skin), clay-colored stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, tired feeling, itching, upper stomach pain, and nausea.
- Problems with coordination or balance
- Trouble concentrating or thinking problems
Common side effects might include:
- Changes in your mood (feeling irritable)
- Sleep problems
There have been reports that supplements could cause bloating and pain, skin reactions, muscular problems, and even kidney damage if taken in high amounts. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exclusive list of side effects as others might occur. Consult your health provider for advice about such side effects.
Dosage And Preparation
While there is no established RDA for chromium, back in 1989, the National Academy of Sciences created an ‘estimated safe and sufficient RDA’ range for chromium. For adolescents and adults, the range was 50 mcg to 200mcg.[vi]
As mentioned earlier, chromium occurs naturally in foods in different amounts. For instance, broccoli might contain approximately 11 micrograms per half a cup serving, red wine contains between 1 mcg and 13 mcg per 5 ounces serving, and mashed potatoes have three micrograms per one-cup serving. The precise amount of the mineral that people get from food varies depending on the food we eat.
Ways To Get Your Chromium
The reason chromium deficiency is uncommon in the United States is that it’s found in many types of food, including meat, grains, vegetables, fruits, and wine. Essentially, there are different ways you can get your recommended daily allowance for chromium: food sources and supplements. However, we strongly recommend you get your RDA from food sources because of the many benefits of eating food. Besides the mineral, you also get other benefits from food, but with supplements, you only get chromium.
Great sources of chromium include poultry, beef, grapes, corn, cheese, peas, whole grains, bananas, apples, potatoes, green beans, and broccoli. You can also get enough chromium from waffles, English muffins, sweet potatoes, turkey, basil, and garlic. For high amounts of chromium, look out for brewer’s yeast; one table of the brewer’s yeast contains up to 60 micrograms.
- Mashed potatoes – 2.7 mcg
- Green beans – 2.2 mcg
- Broccoli – 22mcg
- Grape juice – 1 cup of grape juice has 7.5 mcg
- Meat – you can find chromium in chicken and turkey breast. A 3 ounce serving of turkey contains 1.7 mcg and a 3 ounce serving of chicken has 0.5 mcg
- Wine – red wine samples have between 1.7 mcg and 21.4 mcg a cup of white wine has between 1.6 mcg and 10.5 mcg.
- Brazil nuts – 100 grams of whole wheat contains 21 mcg
Keep in mind that foods with high amounts of simple sugars – where simple sugars make up over 35% of the calorie intake could decrease chromium absorption mainly because chromium absorption from the small intestines is so tiny, you may try to enhance the process by targeting the types of food you eat. Vegetables and fruits with niacin, a B Complex vitamin found in grains, fish, poultry, and vitamin C could improve calcium absorption.
Chromium is available as a supplement, often in the form of chromium-G or chromium picolinate. It’s possible that chromium supplements might be highly beneficial to individuals with type II diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. Because chromium plays a major role in fat metabolism, chromium picolinate is usually found in many supplements made to burn fat.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to show any notable difference in the weight lost by people who took chromium supplements and participants who took placebos. Furthermore, if a supplement has vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients, do some research to help understand exactly what you are taking and how it might affect you.
What is the main benefit of chromium?
What foods are high in chromium?
How does chromium help the body?
How does chromium help lose weight?
What time should I take chromium supplements?
What are the most common signs of chromium deficiency?
What is the benefit of chromium picolinate?
- [i] Diabetes and Dietary Supplements. (2011, November 21).
- [ii] Ganguly, R., Sahu, S., Ohanyan, V. et al. Oral chromium picolinate impedes hyperglycemia-induced atherosclerosis and inhibits proatherogenic protein TSP-1 expression in STZ-induced type 1 diabetic ApoE−/− mice. Sci Rep 7, 45279 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep45279
- [iii] National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Chromium.”
- [iv] Yazaki Y, Faridi Z, Ma Y, et al. A pilot study of chromium picolinate for weight loss. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(3):291-9. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0286
- [v] Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Yuwanakorn A. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014;39(3):292-306. doi:10.1111/jcpt.12147
- [vi] Health and Medicine Division of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application.”