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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?

    Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

    For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

    3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

    2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

    1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

    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 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 shown to improve glucose and related variables in people with many kinds of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes. Chromium may also lower levels of total , LDL cholesterol, and (risk factors for heart disease). The typical amount of chromium used in research trials is 200 mcg per day. Supplementation with chromium or (a source of 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 or brewer's yeast only under the supervision of a doctor.
    3 Stars
    Type 2 Diabetes
    200 to 1,000 mcg daily
    Chromium has been shown to be useful in treating type 2 diabetes in several ways, including by improving glucose tolerance.

    Medical reports dating back to 1853, as well as modern research, indicate that chromium-rich brewer's yeast (9 grams per day) can be useful in treating type 2 diabetes. In recent years, chromium has been shown to improve glucose levels and related variables in people with glucose intolerance and type 2, gestational, and steroid-induced diabetes. Improved glucose tolerance with lower or similar levels of insulin have been reported in more than ten trials of chromium supplementation in people with varying degrees of glucose intolerance. Chromium supplements improve glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes, apparently by increasing sensitivity to insulin . Chromium improves the processing of glucose in people with prediabetic glucose intolerance and in women with diabetes associated with pregnancy . Chromium even helps healthy people, although one such report found chromium useful only when accompanied by 100 mg of niacin per day. Chromium may also lower levels of total cholesterol , LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (risk factors in heart disease ).

    A few trials have reported no beneficial effects from chromium supplementation. All of these trials used 200 mcg or less of supplemental chromium, which is often not adequate for people with diabetes, especially if it is in a form that is poorly absorbed. The typical amount of chromium used in research trials is 200 mcg per day, although as much as 1,000 mcg per day has been used. Many doctors recommend up to 1,000 mcg per day for people with diabetes.

    Supplementation with chromium or brewer's yeast could potentially enhance the effects of drugs used for diabetes (e.g., insulin or other blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia . Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium or brewer's yeast only under the supervision of a doctor.

    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
    Insulin Resistance Syndrome
    200 mcg daily
    Supplementing with chromium may help improve the action of insulin.

    Chromium has long been known to be helpful to people with insulin-related disorders. While no chromium research has been done specifically on people with IRS, known mechanisms of chromium's effects indicate that chromium plays a role in promoting insulin sensitivity. Preliminary evidence also suggests that insulin resistance may cause loss of chromium from the body, increasing the likelihood of chromium deficiency.

    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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