Merck Manual

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Chromium

By

Laura Shane-McWhorter

, PharmD, University of Utah College of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision Jan 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION

What is chromium?

Chromium (more specifically, trivalent chromium) is a mineral required in small quantities by the body. It enables insulin to function.

  • Most people get enough chromium from food.

  • Whole-grain products are good sources of chromium, as are carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and molasses.

  • Picolinate is often paired with chromium in supplements (chromium picolinate), supposedly to help the body absorb chromium more efficiently.

  • Chromium forms a compound in the body that seems to enhance the effects of insulin and lower glucose levels.

  • Several studies have demonstrated that daily doses up to 1,000 micrograms of chromium are safe.

What claims are made about chromium?

  • Promote weight loss

  • Build muscle

  • Reduce body fat

  • Lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—the bad—cholesterol and raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—the good—cholesterol

Chromium picolinate is used for diabetes, high cholesterol, as well as a hormonal disorder in which women have enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS), and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.

Does chromium work?

Although chromium deficiency impairs insulin function, supplementation has not been shown to help people with diabetes, except for small changes in blood sugar.

There is evidence that it may help weight loss, but the effect is small. Notably, a review of randomized controlled trials Types of clinical trials People expect doctors to use treatments that work well and to stop using those that do not. However, it is often difficult for doctors and other scientists to tell which treatments work. Making... read more of chromium picolinate in overweight or obese adults found a small but significant decrease in weight; however, the researchers stated there was no overall evidence to support the use of chromium. There is also no evidence that chromium picolinate benefits body composition or cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

What are the possible side effects of chromium?

Chromium supplements interfere with iron absorption. Some forms of chromium may cause stomach irritation or ulcers. Rarely, damage to the kidneys or liver has been reported; therefore, people with kidney or liver disorders should not take chromium.

Some evidence suggests that chromium damages chromosomes and consequently may be harmful or perhaps cause cancer.

The maximum safe level of chromium intake is not known. However, several studies have demonstrated that daily doses up to 1,000 micrograms of chromium are safe.

What drug interactions occur with chromium?

Chromium might tend to lower blood sugar, particularly when combined with insulin or metformin, but neither this drug combination nor others have been proven.

Recommendations

Use of chromium as a dietary supplement is not recommended, even though such use may result in a small decrease in blood sugar or weight. The American Diabetes Association recommends against its use to lower glucose.

Although chromium supplements are usually safe at doses of up to 1,000 micrograms per day, there appears to be little benefit to offset the small risk of harmful side effects.

Chromium supplements should not be used by people with kidney or liver disorders or by people with iron deficiency.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
GLUCOPHAGE
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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