The Health Benefits of Chromium
What Is Chromium Picolinate?
Chromium picolinate is a chemical compound that's sometimes used as an alternative therapy or as a nutritional supplement.
However, no studies or medical research have proven any significant benefit from using chromium picolinate.
Some people use chromium picolinate in an attempt to treat chromium deficiency, control blood sugar, improve depression in people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lower cholesterol, or to aid in weight loss.
But any alleged benefit from using chromium picolinate is largely anecdotal and not supported by scientific data.
Chromium picolinate is available over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription; it's also found in many multivitamin supplements.
Chromium is a mineral that's known as an "essential trace element" because only very small amounts of it are necessary for human health.
Many foods have small amounts of chromium. Meat, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables are the best sources.
Chromium picolinate works with insulin in the body to metabolize carbohydrates. It's made by combining chromium with picolinic acid. The acid helps the body absorb chromium.
Chromium Picolinate Warnings
You should not use chromium picolinate as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by your doctor.
While the supplement is used by some people to manage different conditions, there's little or no evidence for its effectiveness.
For example, a 2011 study published in the journalEndocrine Practicefound that chromium picolinate use had no effect on glucose or insulin concentrations, insulin sensitivity, or cholesterol levels among people at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, an analysis of several medical studies (published in the journalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition) reviewing the use of chromium picolinate to increase lean muscle mass found no significant benefit.
Always talk to your doctor before taking chromium picolinate.
The supplement may cause harm to you if you have:
You also may not be able to use chromium picolinate if you take steroid medications such as prednisone.
Not all uses for this product have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Furthermore, you should know that there are no regulated manufacturing standards for many nutritional supplements.
Some chromium picolinate supplements have been found to contain toxic metals or other drugs.
Pregnancy and Chromium Picolinate
It's not known whether chromium picolinate will harm an unborn baby. You shouldn't take the supplement if you are pregnant without talking to your doctor.
This product may pass into breast milk and could harm a breastfeeding baby. You should not use chromium picolinate while breastfeeding without first discussing the risks with your doctor.
Chromium Picolinate and Acne
There are some anecdotal reports that chromium picolinate may treat acne.
The theory is chromium helps regulate blood sugar levels, which may also help acne.
However, this has not been proved.
Chromium Picolinate and Weight Loss
A few studies suggest that taking chromium combined with a resistance-training program might help you lose weight and body fat while increasing lean body mass.
However, other research shows the supplement does not support any weight-loss benefit from chromium picolinate.
A 2013 analysis of 11 studies (published in the journalObesity Reviews) found that using chromium picolinate for weight loss resulted in an average weight loss of only 1.1 lbs. after 8 to 24 weeks of use.
Furthermore, some participants in the studies experienced watery stools, vertigo, headaches, and hives (urticaria).
Chromium Picolinate Side Effects
Common Side Effects of Chromium Picolinate
Some common side effects of chromium picolinate may include:
Serious Side Effects of Chromium Picolinate
You should stop using chromium picolinate and contact your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Coordination or balance problems
- Trouble concentrating or problems thinking
- Symptoms of liver problems, which include: nausea; upper stomach pain; itching; feeling tired; loss of appetite; dark-colored urine; clay-colored stools; or yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice)
Seek emergency medical help if you experience any signs of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Chromium Picolinate Interactions
Tell your doctor about all prescription, nonprescription, illegal, recreational, herbal, nutritional, or dietary drugs you're taking while on chromium picolinate, especially:
Chromium Picolinate and Other Interactions
You should avoid a diet that's high in sugar while taking chromium picolinate.
Too much sugar might impact the effectiveness of the supplement.
Chromium Picolinate Dosage
Safe and tolerable levels of chromium picolinate have not been established.
To prevent chromium deficiency, the daily recommended intake is between 50 micrograms (mcg) and 200 mcg for adults and teenagers.
The recommended dietary allowance of chromium increases with age. Follow your doctor's instructions on how much to take.
Chromium Picolinate Overdose
If you suspect an overdose, you should contact a poison-control center or emergency room immediately.
You can get in touch with a poison control center at (800) 222-1222.
Missed Dose of Chromium Picolinate
If you miss a dose of chromium picolinate, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's almost time for your next dose.
Then skip the missed dose and continue on your regular dosing schedule.
Don't take extra doses of chromium picolinate to make up for a missed one.
Chromium Picolinate FAQ
Q: If a person wants to lose weight, do you think taking chromium would help?
Q: I am taking Inderal 40 mg for the past 25 years. Now I have type II diabetes and am taking Glucophage 500 mg and Diabecon. Also, one doctor recommended Chromium Picolinate. Is Chromium essential?
A: While not "essential" in the same sense as your GlucophageÂ« [metformin] (//www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/metformin), there is a long history of research into the benefits of chromium for type 2 diabetes. Studies show that supplemental chromium improves insulin function in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, since chromium may interact with some prescription medications, it should be taken only under the supervision of one's health care provider. It is always a good idea to check with one's health care provider in matters like this. Please consult your health care provider for guidance in your specific case. Gregory Latham, RPh
Q: Can chromium picolinate help regulate sugar metabolism?
A: Can chromium picolinate help regulate sugar metabolism?
Q: I'm on medication for hypothyroidism. Can I also take chromium every day?
Q: Does chromium help regulate blood sugar levels?
A: Chromium might help regulate blood sugar. Some evidence suggests that taking chromium picolinate orally can lower fasting blood glucose, insulin levels, and hemoglobin A1c. It may also decrease weight gain in type 2 diabetes patients who are taking certain diabetic medications (sulfonylurea's). Some researchers suspect that chromium supplements only benefit patients with poor nutrition or low chromium levels. In addition to a low sugar diet, exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood glucose. You may also find helpful information on exercise and glucose at //www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes/how-exercise-affects-glucose.aspx.
Q: I am thinking about taking chromium polynicotinate to help me with insulin resistance. I have been taking Glucophage for a period of approximately six months three times daily without any results. A liver panel test done 1 month ago showed high results plus cholesterol at 199, with very high triglycerides but good HDL numbers. I will have another panel done in a week being drug-free (no Glucophage or ibuprofen in system plus fasting). I was not fasting last time. But due to excessive weight gain, we decided to do blood work that day. I've been following an insulin-resistance diet and have lost five pounds in the last five days. I'd like to go back on Glucophage and take chromium polynicotinate. What do you recommend?
A: Chromium supplements have been thought to help with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes. There has been no conclusive data in the United States to back up this claim. It is, to date, an active area of research. There was a review of the literature done to see the effects of chromium on glucose, A1C, and insulin. Of all the studies reviewed there was only one that showed a benefit with chromium supplementation. The population of this study was thought to have a chromium deficiency. So to date, no clear evidence is available that shows a clear benefit to chromium supplementation, in the absence of a deficiency. Most supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Manufacturers of supplements do not have to show evidence of safety or health benefits to the FDA before selling supplements. Supplement products without any reliable scientific evidence of health benefits may still be sold. This information is solely educational. It's important to consult with your physician or health care provider about any specific question regarding your medical conditions or medications; particularly before taking any action. You may also find helpful information on diabetes at //www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/guide/. Derek Dore, PharmD
Q: Are there any side effects to chromium picolinate?
A: Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement. Products that are sold as dietary or nutritional supplements in the United States do not undergo the same detailed testing that prescription drug products do to show that they are safe and effective. Supplement products can be marketed without any reliable scientific evidence of health benefits as long as the companies selling them do not claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease. With regard to manufacturing, some supplement products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is written on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). In addition, most supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. There is little information on potential side effects of chromium picolinate. Some studies have suggested that even at high doses, few side effects have occurred. There may be some drug interactions with chromium picolinate. So if you are concerned about these or side effects, please contact your health care provider. Michelle McDermott, PharmD
Q: Can I take chromium if I have type 2 diabetes?
A: Chromium is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs a very small amount of it. It is found in food and deficiencies of chromium are rare. Chromium works with insulin to help the body metabolize or process carbohydrates and sugars, helping to improve blood glucose (sugar) levels. As a dietary supplement, chromium has been used for conditions including diabetes, weight loss, and high cholesterol. While the evidence for many of its uses is lacking, there is fairly good evidence that it can help improve glycemic control in some people with diabetes. However, high doses may be needed to see any effect. Keep in mind that dietary supplements are regulated as foods and not drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because supplements are not strictly regulated, they are not required to be evaluated for safety, purity, or even effectiveness. So, manufacturers are not required by law to prove they work, even though they may make dramatic claims. There are also no regulated manufacturing standards in place and some supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals and other drugs. Always purchase supplements from a reliable source to avoid contamination. When choosing a supplement, look for the stamps, USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or DSVP (Dietary Supplement Verification Program), on the label. These organizations assure that the content claims on the label are true. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also has a website that reviews supplements, so you can check out a product before you make a purchase. In general, supplements should be used only under the supervision of your doctor. Dietary supplements should never be used in place of prescription medications for the treatment or management of diseases or medical conditions. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Sarah Lewis, PharmD
Q: My internist suggested I take some chromium to better control my blood sugar. What combination is the best (e.g. chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, etc)?
A: Chromium is an essential micronutrient used to help metabolize carbohydrates and fats. According to the National Institutes of Health, the best way to get enough vitamins and minerals is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. The AI (adequate intake), according to the National Institute of Health, for chromium is 20 to 35 mcg. Some examples of food containing chromium are Brewer's Yeast (2 tablespoons), one medium sweet potato has 35 mcg, one ear of corn has 52 mcg, whole grains contain chromium, as well as turkey, beef, and liver. Oysters and shellfish are also high in chromium. Fruits and vegetables high in chromium include tomato, spinach, broccoli, onion, garlic, basil leaves, lettuce, fresh chili, green pepper, beet, mushroom, rye, apple, orange, and banana. In some cases, a daily multivitamin or supplement may be needed for optimal health. There are numerous formulations and different combinations of supplements, such as chromium. The need for chromium and the choice of the most appropriate chromium preparation is patient specific and can vary. Thus, it is important to consult with your physician or health care provider regarding the appropriate intake of chromium that best meets your needs. Because herbs and supplements are not strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these products are not required to be tested for effectiveness, purity, or safety. In general, dietary supplements should only be taken under the supervision of your health care provider. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Patti Brown, PharmD
Q: Can chromium deficiency cause hair loss and abnormal insulin readings?
A: Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts. Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin and also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Chromium stores in the body may be reduced under several conditions. Infection, acute exercise, pregnancy and lactation, and stressful states (such as physical trauma) increase chromium losses and can lead to deficiencies. Chromium deficiency impairs the body's ability to use glucose to meet its energy needs and raises insulin requirements. Eating a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, and milk and milk products should provide sufficient chromium. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, "Nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods. Foods provide an array of nutrients and other compounds that may have beneficial effects on health. Many drugs have been reported to cause hair loss and although for some drugs the effect is well known, for others the evidence mainly consists of case reports. Many commonly prescribed prescription drugs can cause temporary hair loss, trigger the onset of male and female pattern baldness, and even cause permanent hair loss.
Q: How many micrograms of chromium should I take to lose weight?
A: Chromium supplementation has been studied for a variety of indications, especially diabetes and weight loss. However, clinical studies have shown inconsistent results. The role of supplemental chromium remains controversial. Taking chromium picolinate, by mouth, for two to three months may produce a small weight loss of about 1.1 kg. However, not all studies have found this benefit. The safe and tolerable upper dosages of chromium, for weight loss, are not known. However, daily adequate intake levels for chromium have been established. The currently accepted value for chromium dietary intake is 25 mcg per day for women and 35 mcg per day for men. Over-the-counter diet supplements are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products have not undergone the rigorous testing and approval that the FDA performs on FDA-approved drug products. In addition, the effectiveness and safety of these supplements have been evaluated in very few clinical studies. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is important to staying healthy and keeping your metabolism going. Talk to your healthcare provider about other treatment options. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Anissa Lee, RPh
Q: I am newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I am controlling it with diet and exercise, no medication. I have been taking Prozac for several years. With my diabetes, is it safe to add chromium to my daily routine?
A: Chromium is a dietary supplement that may help reduce insulin resistance and improve blood glucose levels. It has been studied in a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes and for weight loss. Study results have been rather inconsistent, with some showing benefit and others not. Therefore, supplementation with chromium still remains a subject of debate. Supplementation may be beneficial for some patients with diabetes. You should talk to your doctor before starting chromium, as it may be necessary to monitor your blood glucose (sugar) levels more closely. A search of a drug interaction database did not specifically list any interaction between chromium and Prozac (fluoxetine). However, this does not mean that one can't exist. Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way that prescription and over-the-counter medications are. Supplements are regulated as foods and not drugs. Because they are not strictly regulated, supplements are not required to be evaluated for purity, effectiveness, or safety, including information about drug interactions. There are also no regulated manufacturing standards in place and some supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals and other drugs. Always purchase supplements from a reliable source in order to minimize the risk of contamination. When choosing a supplement, look for the stamps, USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or DSVP (Dietary Supplement Verification Program), on the label. These organizations assure that the content claims on the label are true. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also has a website that reviews supplements, so people can check them out before making purchases. In general, supplements should be used only with the supervision of your doctor. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action.
Video: Chromium, the Amazing for Insulin Resistance
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