Chromium is an essential mineral found in plants and grains. There are two types of minerals: essential and non-essential. Essential minerals, like chromium, cannot be produced by the human body and therefore must be obtained through proper diet or other nutritional means. Chromium is key to the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In clinical studies it been shown to enhance the action of insulin in the body.
Chromium supplementation provides benefits for a variety of health conditions. The most promising of which are the benefits of chromium on diabetes and weight management. Chromium deficiencies are linked to the development of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol levels. Other Chromium benefits include athletic performance, fat loss, heart disease and more.
Insulin resistant disorders
Chromium helps boost the effectiveness of insulin in your body, which helps keep blood sugar levels lower and more stable. In clinical studies, chromium supplementation improves diabetic symptoms, HgbA1c levels, fasting glucose levels, and insulin sensitivity. Individuals that may benefit include those that have insulin resistance, type I and type II diabetics, and individuals with high blood sugar levels due to certain medications such as steroids. Multiple research studies have shown that daily chromium supplementation supports improvements in body composition, as well as positive changes in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels.
As mentioned above, insulin resistance encourages fat storage and inhibits weight loss. Obesity can be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Chromium helps your body process and store carbohydrates and fats, and encourages the effects of insulin. Clinical support for chromium’s direct impact on weight loss is yet to be determined, but the indirect impact through nutrient metabolism and insulin response is well established
High Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Research studies show that taking chromium supplements lowered both LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol after 6-12 weeks. Further research studied demonstrate that long-term supplementation with chromium not only lowered LDL and total cholesterol, but decreased triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol). Lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels is an effective way to decreases the risk of heart disease.
Chromium supplementation may also provide benefits for the following conditions and health goals, but the clinical support is less established at this point.
- Athletic performance
- Fat loss
- Cognitive function
- Heart disease
- Bipolar disorder
- Binge eating
Do I Need A Chromium Supplement?
Being an essential trace mineral, individuals suffering from chromium deficiency will benefit the most from a chromium supplement. Due to chromium’s impact on insulin effectiveness, there is evidence to suggest that chromium deficiency results in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Even though chromium is found in much of our food sources, we absorb very little of it. The rate at which our bodies are able to absorb chromium decreased with age, meaning elderly populations are at a higher risk for chromium deficiency.
How Much Chromium Do I Need?
Chromium has been used safely in a small number of studies using doses of 200-1000 mcg daily for up to 2 years at a time. The RDA (recommended daily amount) for chromium in healthy individuals is as follows, though the exact amount of chromium that you need can only be determined with a thorough analysis of your DNA and lifestyle information. Take the Vitality DNA test today to learn whether chromium is right for your body.
14 to 50 years: 35 mcg
51 and older: 30 mcg
19 to 50 years: 25 mcg
51 and older: 20 mcg
14 to 18 years: 29 mcg
19 to 50 years: 30 mcg
14 to 18 years: 44 mcg
19 to 50 years: 45 mcg
Sources of Chromium
Chromium is found naturally in several common food sources, in small amounts:
- Whole-grain products
What are the Side Effects of Chromium?
Side effects from chromium supplementation are rare, and usually mild when they do occur. Reported side effects include:
- Gastrointestinal irritation
Chromium has been deemed likely safe for consumption during pregnancy.
Are There Any Medications or Supplements I Shouldn’t Take With Chromium?
Chromium has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in humans; theoretically, concomitant use of chromium and insulin might increase the risk of hypoglycemia.
Chromium may bind levothyroxine in the intestinal tract and decrease levothyroxine absorption.
Corticosteroids may lower chromium levels, which might lead to chromium deficiency and/or corticosteroid-induced hyperglycemia.
There is some evidence that NSAIDs might increase chromium levels by increasing chromium absorption and retention. Prostaglandin inhibitors seem to increase chromium absorption and retention. Some of these drugs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, others), indomethacin (Indocin), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn), piroxicam (Feldene), aspirin, and others.
Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) can increase urinary excretion of chromium by up to 88% of the Recommended Daily Allowance in humans; however, this effect may not be clinically significant, as chromium excretion seems to normalize after nine doses of DMSA.
Since chromium increased the effectiveness of insulin in humans, using chromium with antidiabetic medication may result in hypoglycemia. Adjusting the dosage of antidiabetic medication may be necessary to avoid this side effect. Antidiabetes drugs include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and others.
Evidence from animal research suggests that aspirin may increase chromium absorption and chromium levels in the blood. This might result in chromium overload, but there is no definitive evidence to support this yet.
Taking chromium in the form of chromium polynicotinate in combination with potentially hepatotoxic drugs may increase the risk of liver disease. This combination has been linked to hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) in at least reported three cases. Some drugs that can adversely affect the liver include acetaminophen (Tylenol), amiodarone (Cordarone), carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), methyldopa (Aldomet), and many others.
Should You Take Chromium Supplements?
Chromium supplementation seems to be most beneficial for individuals that are:
- Glucose intolerant or insulin resistant
- Type 2 diabetic
- Overweight or obese
- At risk for heart disease
For women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), chromium supplementation may help fight the unwanted weight gain and difficulty controlling blood sugar levels.
Interested in learning whether chromium supplementation is right for you? Take the Vitality DNA test today to find out exactly which nutrients your body needs.