What is the Role of Chromium (Cr) in Good Nutrition?


Key Functions of Chromium (Cr)

Best sources of Cr

Who would benefit from Cr-supplementation?

When to use Cr-supplementation

How much Cr is usually taken?

What are the side effects of using Cr?

As a trace mineral, Cr is an essential in helping the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. It helps regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Key Functions of Cr

Chromium are mostly researched for its use in supplement form to treat diabetes, lower blood lipid levels, promote weight loss, and improve body composition.

Cr participates in glucose metabolism by enhancing the effects of insulin. Insulin provides cells with glucose for energy and prevents blood glucose levels from becoming elevated.

In addition to its effects on carbohydrate (glucose) metabolism, insulin also influences the metabolism of fat and protein.

A decreased response to insulin or decreased insulin sensitivity may result in impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. About 25% to 30% of individuals with impaired glucose tolerance eventually develop type 2 diabetes. Impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes are also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Supplementation values of 150 to 1,000 mcg/day has decreased total and low-density-lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in persons with atherosclerosis or elevated cholesterol or among those taking a beta-blocker drug.

Cr-supplements to the effects of 200 to 1,000 mcg/day of chromium (in the form of Cr-picolinate), are claimed to reduce body fat and increase lean (muscle) mass, but a review of 24 studies that examined the effect of Cr-supplementation on body mass or composition found no significant benefits.

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Best sources of Cr

True brewer’s yeast (not nutritional or torula yeast) and calf liver is the best natural sources of Cr. Cr 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 Cr.

Processed meats, whole grain products, ready-to-eat bran cereals, green beans, broccoli, and spices are relatively rich in Cr.

Foods high in simple sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar) and fructose, are not only low in Cr but have been found to promote Cr loss.

Cr is also found in drinking water, especially hard water, but concentrations vary greatly.

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Who would benefit from Cr-supplementation?

Research on the effects of inadequate chromium intake and risk factors for Cr-deficiency are limited by the lack of accurate tests for determining nutritional chromium status.

The high incidence of adult-onset diabetes suggests that many people should be supplementing with small amounts of Cr. Most people eat less than the U.S. National Academy of Science’s recommended range of 50–200 mcg per day.

Cr deficiency was reported for patients on long-term intravenous feeding who did not receive supplemental Cr. These patients developed abnormal glucose utilization and increased insulin requirements that responded to Cr-supplementation.

Because Cr enhances the action of insulin and Cr-deficiency has resulted in impaired glucose tolerance, Cr-deficiency has been found a contributing factor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Individuals with type 2 diabetes have been found to have higher rates of urinary Cr-loss than healthy individuals, especially those with diabetes of more than two years duration.

Studies of male runners indicated that urinary Cr-loss was increased by endurance exercise, suggesting that chromium needs may be greater in individuals who exercise regularly.

Weight lifting was found to increase urinary excretion of Cr in older men. However, Cr absorption was also increased, leading to little or no net loss of Cr as a result of resistive exercise.

A special note:

  • if you're taking Calcium carbonate supplements or antacids: You may need extra Cr. You should also separate your Cr-supplement and your doses of these substances by at least 2 hours, because they may interfere with chromium's absorption.

  • if you're taking oral diabetes medications or insulin: Seek medical supervision before taking Cr because you may need to reduce your dose of these medications.

  • if you're taking Beta-blockers: Cr-supplementation may improve levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.

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When to use Cr-supplementation

Cr has been used in connection with the following conditions:

High cholesterol Hypoglycaemia
Type 1 diabetes Type 2 diabetes
High triglycerides Insulin resistance syndrome (Syndrome X)
Athletic performance Depression
Weight loss

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How much Cr is usually taken?

A daily intake of 200 mcg is recommended by many doctors.

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What are the side effects of using Chromium?

Cr has not been found to cause toxicity in humans for supplemental amounts of typically 50–300 mcg per day. A cause-effect relationship was not proven although there are a few reports of people developing medical problems while taking Cr.
Chromium intake has not been linked to increased incidence of cancer in humans.

People with diabetes taking insulin or blood sugar-lowering agents should supplement with Cr only under the supervision of a doctor as Cr-supplementation may enhance the effects of these drugs for diabetes and possibly lead to hypoglycaemia.

Vitamin C was found during preliminary research to increases the absorption of Cr.

To be on the safe side, no one should take more than 300 mcg per day of Cr without the supervision of a doctor.

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