- 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.
- 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).
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).
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).
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).