Chromium is a mineral. It is called an "essential trace element" because very small amounts of chromium are necessary for human health. There are two forms of chromium: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. The first is found in foods and supplements and is safe for humans. The second is a known toxin that can cause skin problems and lung cancer.
Chromium is used for improving blood sugar control in people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar due to taking steroids and HIV treatments.
It is also used for depression, Turner's syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lowering "bad" cholesterol, raising "good" cholesterol in people taking heart medications called beta blockers, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and binge eating disorder.
Some people try chromium for body conditioning including weight loss, increasing muscle, and decreasing body fat. Chromium is also used to improve athletic performance, to increase energy, and to prevent age-related mental decline.
Chromium is used intravenously (by IV) as a supplement in nutritional IV drips.
How it works
Chromium might help keep blood sugar levels normal by improving the way our bodies use insulin.
Likely EffectiveChromium deficiency
Taking chromium by mouth is effective for preventing chromium deficiency.
Chromium is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth, short-term. Up to 1000 mcg/day of chromium has been used safely for up to 6 months
Chromium is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth for longer periods of time. Chromium has been used safely in a small number of studies using doses of 200-1000 mcg daily for up to 2 years. Some people experience side effects such as skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood changes and impaired thinking, judgment, and coordination. High doses have been linked to more serious side effects including blood disorders, liver or kidney damage, and other problems. It is not known for sure if chromium is the actual cause of these side effects.
Pregnancy: Chromium isLIKELY SAFEto use during pregnancy when taken by mouth in amounts that are equal to or less than "adequate intake" (AI) levels. The AI forpregnantwomen 14 to 18 years-old is 29 mcg daily. For pregnant women 19 to 50 years-old, it is 30 mcg daily. Chromium isPOSSIBLY SAFEto use during pregnancy in amounts higher than the AI levels. However, pregnant women should not take chromium supplements during pregnancy unless advised to do so by their healthcare provider.
Breast-feeding: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE to use while breast-feeding when taken by mouth in amounts that are equal to or less than "adequate intake" (AI) levels. The AI for breast-feeding women 14 to 18 years-old is 44 mcg daily. For breast-feeding women 19 to 50 years-old it is 45 mcg daily. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking higher amounts of chromium if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Chromium is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts that do not exceed the "adequate intake" (AI) levels. For infants 0 to 6 months-old, the AI is 0.2 mcg daily; 7 to 12 months, 5.5 mcg. For children 1 to 3 years-old, the AI is 11 mcg; 4 to 8 years-old, 15 mcg. For boys 9 to 13 years-old, the AI is 25 mcg. For girls 9 to 13 years-old, the AI is 21 mcg; 14 to 18 years-old, 24 mcg. Taking chromium by mouth is POSSIBLY SAFE when used in amounts that exceed the AI levels.
Behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia: Chromium might affect brain chemistry and might make behavioral or psychiatric conditions worse. If you have one of these conditions, be careful when using chromium supplements. Pay attention to any changes in how you feel.
Chromate/leather contact allergy: Chromium supplements can cause allergic reactions in people with chromate or leather contact allergy. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and scaling of the skin.
Diabetes: Chromium might lower blood sugar levels too much if taken along with diabetes medications. If you have diabetes, use chromium products cautiously and monitor blood glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments to diabetes medications might be necessary.
Kidney disease: There are at least three reports of kidney damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don't take chromium supplements, if you already have kidney disease.
Liver disease: There are at least three reports of liver damage in patients who took chromium picolinate. Don't take chromium supplements, if you already have liver disease.
Insulin is used to decrease blood sugar. Chromium might increase how well insulin works. Taking chromium along with insulin might cause your blood sugar to drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your insulin might need to be changed.Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levothroid, Levoxyl, and others)
Taking chromium with levothyroxine (Synthroid) might decrease how much levothyroxine (Synthroid) that the body absorbs. This might make levothyroxine (Synthroid) less effective. To help avoid this interaction, levothyroxine (Synthroid) should be taken 30 minutes before or 3-4 hours after taking chromium.
Chromium might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking chromium along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and others.Aspirin might increase how much chromium the body absorbs and increase chromium levels in the blood. In theory, taking aspirin with chromium might increase the risk of adverse effects.