Clinical studies suggest that chromium supplements may be helpful for the following conditions:
For many years, researchers have studied the effects of chromium supplements for type 2 diabetes. While some clinical studies found no benefit, other clinical studies reported that chromium supplements may reduce blood sugar levels, as well as the amount of insulin people with diabetes need.
In one well designed study, people with type 2 diabetes who took chromium picolinate had better HbA1c values -- used to measure long-term control of blood sugar levels -- than those who took placebo. The group taking chromium also had better fasting blood glucose levels, a measure of short-term control of blood sugar levels.
Another well designed study looked at a combination of chromium and biotin. Half the people in the study took chromium picolinate and biotin, and the other half took placebo. Those who took chromium and biotin had better fasting glucose levels as well as HbA1c values.
One study found that women who have diabetes as a result of being pregnant improved their blood sugar control when they took chromium.
But not all studies agree, and if chromium does help reduce blood glucose, it's not clear how big the benefit might be. More research is needed.
Weight loss and obesity
Chromium is often advertised as a weight-loss aid and a way to improve lean muscle and reduce body fat. Studies have been mixed, with some finding that chromium may help people lose weight and build muscle, and others finding it has no effect. If chromium does work for weight loss, it seems the effects are small compared to those of exercise and a well-balanced diet.
Chromium is popular with some body builders, and can be found in sports nutrition supplements. However, there is not much evidence that chromium helps people gain strength or build muscle mass. Most studies have concluded that chromium supplementation has no benefit over a healthy diet and exercise.
Animal studies suggest that chromium may help lower blood pressure. However, researchers don't know if it has the same effects in humans.
Clinical studies about whether chromium can lower cholesterol have been mixed. Some suggest that chromium may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, including one study that combined chromium with grape seed extract. In another study, people who were taking beta-blockers found that taking chromium raised their HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
One small study found that chromium picolinate improved symptoms of depression in people with atypical depression. But a larger study found that chromium didn't help. More research is needed.
Abdollahi M, Farshchi A, Nikfar S, Seyedifar M. Effect of chromium on glucose and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes; a meta-analysis review of randomized trials. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2013; 16(1):99-114.
Anderson R. Chromium, glucose intolerance and diabetes. J Amer Coll Nutr. 1998;17:548-555.
Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes and Metabolism. 2000;26(1)22-27.
Anderson RA. Effects of chromium on body composition and weight loss. Nutr Rev. 1998;56(9):266-270.
Anderson R. Elevated intake of supplemental chromium improved glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46:1786-1791.
Anderson RA. Nutritional factors influencing the glucose/insulin system: chromium. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997;16(5):404-410.
Anderson RA, Cheng N, Bryden NA, et al. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46:1786-1791.
Anderson RA, Roussell AM, Zouari N, Mahjoub S, Matheau JM, Kerkeni A. Potential antioxidant effects of zinc and chromium supplementation in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(3):212-218.
Bahadori B, Wallner S, Schneider H, Wascher TC, Toplak H. Effect of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate on body composition of obese, non-diabetic patients during and after a formula diet. Acta Med Austria Ca. 1997;24:185-187.
Balk EM, Tatsioni A, Lichenstein AH, Lau J, Pittas AG. Effect of chromium supplementation on glucose metabolism and lipids: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes Care. 2007;30(8):2154-2163.
Broadhurst CL, Domenico P. Clinical studies on chromium picolinate supplementation in diabetes mellitus -- a review. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2006;8(6):677-687.
Campbell WW, Joseph LJ, Davey SL, Cyr-Campbell D, Anderson RA, Evans WJ. Effects of resistance training and chromium picolinate on body composition and skeletal muscle in older men. J Appl Physiol. 1999;86(1):29-39.
Cheng HH, Lai MH, Hou WC, Huang CL. Antioxidant effects of chromium supplementation with type 2 diabetes mellitus and euglycemic subjects. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(5):1385-1389.
Davì G, Santilli F, Patrono C. Nutraceuticals in diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Cardiovasc Ther. 2010 Aug;28(4):216-26. Review.
Davis ML, Seaborn CD, Stoecker BJ. Effects of over-the-counter drugs on 51chromium retention and urinary excretion in rats. Nutr Res. 1995;15:201-210.
Dong F, Yang X, Sreejayan N, Ren J. Chromium (D-phenylalanine)3 improves obesity-induced cardiac contractile defect in ob/ob mice. Obesity. 2007;15(11):2699-2711.
Frauchiger MT, Wenk C, Colombani PC. Effects of acute chromium supplementation on postprandial metabolism in healthy young men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(4):351-357.
Gunton JE, Cheung NW, Hitchman R, Hams G, O'Sullivan C, Foster-Powell K, McElduff A. Chromium supplementation does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, or lipid profile: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of supplementation in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. Diabetes Care. 2005;28(3):712-713.
Hermann J, Arquitt A, Stoecker B. Effects of chromium supplementation on plasma lipids, apolipoproteins, and glucose in elderly subjects. Nutr Res. 1994;14(5):671-674.
Hummel M, Standl E, Schnell O. Chromium in metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Horm Metab Res. 2007;39(10):743-751.
Iqbal N, Cardillo S, Volger S, Bloedon LT, Anderson RA, Boston R, Szapary PO. Chromium picolinate does not improve key features of metabolic syndrome in obese nondiabetic adults. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009 Apr;7(2):143-150.
Jain SK, Rains JL, Croad JL. Effect of chromium niacinate and chromium picolinate supplementation on lipid peroxidation, TNF-alpha, IL-6, CRP, glycated hemoglobin, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels in blood of streptozotocin-treated diabetic rats. Free Radic Bio Med. 2007;43(8):1124-1131.
Król E, Krejpcio Z, Byks H, Bogdanski P, Pupek-Musialik D. Effects of Chromium Brewer's Yeast Supplementation on Body Mass, Blood Carbohydrates, and Lipids and Minerals in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Dec 18. [Epub ahead of print]
Lee NA, Reasner CA. Beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on serum triglyceride levels in NIDDM. Diabetes Care. 1994;17:1449-1452.
Livolsi JM, Adams GM, Laguna PL. The effect of chromium picolinate on muscular strength an body composition in women athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2001;15(2):161-166.
Lukasi HC, Bolonchuk WW, Siders, WA, Milne DB. Chromium supplementation and resistance training: effects on body composition, strength, and trace element status of men. Am J Clin Nut. 1996;663:954-965.
McCarty MF. Complementary measures for promoting insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle. Med Hypotheses. 1998;51(6):451-464.
McCarty MF. Anabolic effects of insulin on bone suggests a role for chromium picolinate in preservation of bone density. Med Hypotheses. 1995;45:241-246.
McCarty MF. Chromium picolinate may favorably influence the vascular risk associated with smoking by combating cortisol-induced insulin resistance. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1220-1224.
Onakpoya I, Posadzki P, Ernst E. Chromium supplementation in overweight and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Obes Rev. 2013; 14(6):496-507.
Porter DJ, Raymond LW, Anastasio GD. Chromium: friend or foe? Arch Family Med. 1999;8(5):386-390.
Press RI, Geller J, Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on serum cholesterol and apolipoprotein fractions in human subjects. Western J Med. 1993;152:41-45.
Preuss HG, Jarrell ST, Scheckenbach R, Lieberman S, Anderson RA. Comparative effects of chromium, vanadium and gymnema sylfestre on sugar-induced blood pressure elevations in SHR. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998;17(2):116-123.
Racek J, Trefil L, Rajdl D, Mudrova V, Hunter D, Senft V. Influence of chromium-enriched yeast on blood glucose and insulin variables, blood lipids, and markers of oxidative stress in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2006;109(3):215-230.
Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier; 2012.
Ravina A, Slezack L. Chromium in the treatment of clinical diabetes mellitus. Harefuah. 1993;125(5-6):142-145,191.
Ravina A, Slezak L, Mirsky N, Bryden NA, Anderson RA. Reversal of corticosteroid-induced diabetes mellitus with supplemental chromium. Diabetic Med. 1999;169(2):164-167.
Ryan GJ, Wanko NS, Redman AR, Cook CB. Chromium as adjunctive treatment for type 2 diabetes. Ann Pharmacother. 2003;37(6):876-85.
Seaborn CD, Stoecker BJ. Effects of antacid or ascorbic acid on tissue accumulation and urinary excretion of chromium-51. Nutr Res. 1990;10:1401-1408.
Shannon M. Alternative medicines toxicology: a review of selected agents. Clin Tox. 1999;37(6):709-713.
Townsend: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA; Elsevier Inc., 2008.
Trow LG, Lewis J, Greenwood RH, Sampson MJ, Self KA, Crews HM, et al. Lack of effect of dietary chromium supplementation on glucose tolerance, plasma insulin, and lipoprotein levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2000;70(1):14-18.
Trumbo PR, Ellwood KC. Chromium picolinate intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: an evidence-based review by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Nutr Rev. 2006;64(8):357-363.
Volpe SL, Huang HW, Larpadisorn K, Lesser II. 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(4):293-296.
Vincent JB. The biochemistry of chromium. J Nutr. 2000;130:715-718.
Vincent JB, Love ST. The need for combined inorganic, biochemical, and nutritional studies of chromium (III). Chem Biodivers. 2012; 9(9):1923-1941.
Wang MM. Serum cholesterol of adults supplemented with brewer's yeast or chromium chloride. Nutr Res. 1989;9:989-998.
Wang ZQ, Cefalu WT. Current concepts about chromium supplementation in type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Curr Diab Rep. 2010 Apr;10(2):145-51. Review.
Wilson BE, Gondy A. Effects of chromium supplementation on fasting insulin levels and lipid parameters in healthy, non-obese young subjects. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1995;28:179-184.
Yazaki Y, Faridi Z, Ma Y, Ali A, Northrup V, Njike VY, Liberti L, Katz DL. A pilot study of chromium picolinate for weight loss. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Mar;16(3):291-299.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.