Common Names

  • Chromium III
  • chromium picolinate
  • niacin-bound chromium
  • chromium chloride

For Patients & Caregivers

Chromium may help to regulate blood glucose in some people, but the long-term effects are unknown. There is no clear evidence to show that chromium supplementation is effective for improving glucose metabolism, losing weight, or building muscle mass.

Chromium is an element required by the body in very small amounts (0.025 mg a day). Adequate amounts are usually obtained in the diet from foods such as American cheese, meat, fish, fruits, and whole grains. Based on laboratory experiments, scientists think that chromium is involved in maintaining adequate levels of glucose, fats, and insulin activity in the body. Chromium may interact with insulin receptors and enhances the effects of insulin on cells, including improved glucose uptake. In theory, this could help patients with type 2 diabetes.

Chromium is sometimes combined with GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) in over-the-counter products. GTF is a yeast extract that helps with glucose metabolism in laboratory studies, but this effect has not been confirmed in humans.

  • To treat diabetes
    Clinical trials produced conflicting results regarding chromium’s ability to lower blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. According to the FDA, it is highly uncertain that chromium picolinate can reduce the risk of insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
  • To improve muscle mass
    Clinical trials do not support this use.
  • To improve weight loss
    Clinical trials do not support this use.
  • You have liver or kidney problems.
  • You are taking sulfonylureas or insulin (in theory, chromium may lower your blood sugar even more. Diabetics may wish to check their blood glucose levels more often so that adjustments can be made to their therapy, if necessary. Ask your doctor.)
  • In rare cases, liver toxicity has occurred.
  • The following cases of very rare side effects have been reported:(1) Two people had kidney failure, (2) One patient developed acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (red skin lesions, fever, edema, high white blood cell count, and elevated blood eosinophil levels), (3) One patient developed rhabdomyolysis (destruction of skeletal muscle) while taking chromium picolinate in addition to other dietary supplements (so whether chromium caused this condition is not clear).
  • When taken by mouth, chromium is poorly absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream. The salt forms of chromium, such as chromium picolinate, niacin-bound chromium, and chromium chloride are more readily absorbed.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Chromium is a trace element that is necessary for glucose, insulin, and lipid metabolism in humans (1) (9). Most people consume adequate amounts through their diet and deficiency is rare. Chromium is marketed as a dietary supplement for diabetes, weight loss, and to improve muscle mass. Trivalent chromium from yeast extract is sometimes referred to as Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) in over-the-counter products. Chromium supplementation with biotin may help to improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetics (4) (5) (6). However, many clinical studies failed to demonstrate a beneficial effect of chromium on glucose metabolism, weight loss, or muscle mass improvement (3) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14). One study did show that chromium picolinate may increase satiety (15). Due to lack of clinical evidence, the FDA has stated that chromium picolinate does not reduce the risk of insulin resistance or type-2 diabetes (16). A small clinical study reported that chromium picolinate supplementation in elderly patients with early memory decline improved cerebral and memory function (17).

Chromium is poorly absorbed following oral administration, but the salt forms (e.g., chromium picolinate, niacin-bound chromium, and chromium chloride) appear to have better bioavailability. Adverse effects are rare but can include renal failure (18) (19), rhabdomyolysis (20), liver damage (21), and dermatitis (22).

Liver, American cheese, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, meat, fish, fruits, whole grains, brown sugar, alfalfa, and animal fats

  • Diabetes
  • Strength and stamina
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss

Chromium is an essential trace element involved with glucose and lipid metabolism, circulating insulin levels, and the peripheral activity of insulin (1). In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that chromium potentiates the activity of insulin (23). This is thought to occur via enhanced intracellular tyrosine kinase activity that results from an interaction between chromium, low molecular weight chromium-binding substance, and activated cell surface insulin receptors (2).

Patients with liver or renal insufficiency may have increased susceptibility to adverse effects (24).

Rare: Hepatic toxicity (21)
Case reports: Two cases of renal failure (18) (19); one case of acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis, characterized by erythematous lesions, fever, edema, leukocytosis, and eosinophilia (22); one report of rhabdomyolysis in a patient taking chromium picolinate in addition to other dietary supplements (20).

Sulfonylureas / Insulin: Theoretically, chromium may have additive hypoglycemic effects.

  • Lower Hgb A1c, blood glucose, serum insulin, total cholesterol.
  • Small increase in HDL.
  1. Porter DJ, Raymond LW, Anastasio GD. Chromium: friend or foe? Arch Fam Med 1999;8:386-90.
  2. Vincent JB. The biochemistry of chromium. J Nutr 2000;130:715-8.
  3. Christopher H. Bailey. Improved Meta-Analytic Methods Show No Effect of Chromium Supplements on Fasting Glucose. Biological Trace Element Research, 2013; 157 (1):1-8.
  4. Anderson RA, et al. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variable in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes 1997;46:1786-91.
  5. Albarracin CA, Fuqua BC, Evans JL, Goldfine ID. Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight to obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. Jan-Feb 2008;24(1):41-51.
  6. Wang ZQ, Qin J, Martin J, et al. Phenotype of subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus may determine clinical response to chromium supplementation.Metabolism. Dec 2007;56(12):1652-1655.
  7. Campbell WW, et al. Effects of resistance training and chromium picolinate on body composition and skeletal muscle in older men. J Appl Physiol 1999;86:29-39.
  8. Clancy SP, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition, strength, and urinary chromium loss in football players. Int J Sport Nutr 1994;4:142-53.
  9. Grant KE, et al. Chromium and exercise training: Effect on obese women. Med Sci Sports Exercise 1997;29:992-8.
  10. Lukaski HC, et al. Chromium supplementation and resistance training: effects on body composition, strength, and trace element status of men. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;63:954-65.
  11. Pasman WJ, et al. The effectiveness of long-term supplementation of carbohydrate, chromium, fibre and caffeine on weight maintenance. Int J Obes Rel Metab Dis 1997;21:1143-51.
  12. Volpe SL, et al. Effect of chromium supplementation and exercise on body composition, resting metabolic rate and selected biochemical parameters in moderately obese women following an exercise program. J Am Coll Nutr 2001;20:293-306.
  13. Ali A, Ma Y, Reynolds J, et al. Chromium effects on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in persons at risk for diabetes mellitus. Endocr Pract. 2011 Jan-Feb;17(1):16-25.
  14. Iqbal N, Cardillo S, Volger S, et al. Chromium picolinate does not improve key features of metabolic syndrome in obese nondiabetic adults. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009 Apr;7(2):143-50.
  15. Anton SD, Morrison CD, Cefalu WT, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. Oct 2008;10(5):405-412.
  16. Letter from FDA. Chromium picolinate and Insulin resistance. Accessed December 8, 2009.
  17. Krikorian R, Eliassen JC, Boespflug EL, et al. Improved cognitive-cerebral function in older adults with chromium supplementation. Nutr Neurosci. 2010 Jun;13(3):116-22.
  18. Cerulli J, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998; 32:428-31.
  19. Wasser WG, Feldman NS, D’Agati VD. Chronic renal failure after ingestion of over-the-counter chromium picolinate. Ann Int Med 1997;126:410.
  20. Martin WR, Fuller RE. Suspected chromium picolinate-induced rhabdomyolysis. Pharmacotherapy 1998;18:860-2.
  21. Jeejeebhoy KN. The role of chromium in nutrition and therapeutics and as a potential toxin. Nutr Rev 1999;57:329-35.
  22. Young PC, et al. Acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis induced by chromium picolinate. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;41:820-3.
  23. Cefalu WT, et al. Oral chromium picolinate improves carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and enhances skeletal muscle Glut-4 translocation in obese, hyperinsulinemic (JCR-LA corpulent) rats. J Nutr 2002 ;132:1107-14.
  24. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington: National Academy Press; 2001.
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