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Chromium

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Chromium Safety and Side Effects

Chromium is safe for most adults when used appropriately for 6 months or less. Chromium also seems to be safe for most people when used for longer periods of time. 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. But it is not known if chromium is the actual cause of these side effects.

Do not take chromium supplements if:

  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • You have kidney problems.
  • You have a chromate allergy.
  • You have a behavioral or psychiatric condition such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.
  • You have liver disease.

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What other names is Chromium known by?

Acétate de Chrome, Atomic Number 24, Chlorure Chromique, Chlorure de Chrome, Chrome, Chrome III, Chrome 3+, Chrome FTG, Chrome Facteur de Tolérance au Glucose, Chrome Trivalent, Chromic Chloride, Chromium Acetate, Chromium Chloride, Chromium Nicotinate, Chromium Picolinate, Chromium Polynicotinate, Chromium Proteinate, Chromium Trichloride, Chromium Tripicolinate, Chromium III, Chromium III Picolinate, Chromium 3+, Cr III, Cr3+, Cromo, Glucose Tolerance Factor-Cr, GTF, GTF Chromium, GTF-Cr, Kali Bichromicum, Nicotinate de Chrome, Numéro Atomique 24, Picolinate de Chrome, Picolinate de Chrome III, Polynicotinate de Chrome, Potassium Bichromate, Protéinate de Chrome, Trichlorure de Chrome, Tripicolinate de Chrome, Trivalent Chromium, Cr.

What is Chromium?

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.

Likely Effective for...

  • Chromium deficiency. Taking chromium by mouth is effective for preventing chromium deficiency.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Diabetes. Some evidence shows that taking chromium picolinate (a chemical compound that contains chromium) by mouth, either alone or along with biotin, can lower fasting blood sugar, lower insulin levels, and help insulin work in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, chromium picolinate might decrease weight gain and fat accumulation in people with type 2 diabetes who are taking a class of antidiabetes medications called sulfonylureas.

    Higher chromium doses might be more effective and work more quickly. Higher doses might also lower the level of certain blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) in some people.

    Early research suggests that chromium picolinate might have the same benefits in people with type 1 diabetes, people who have diabetes as a result of steroid treatment, and people with diabetes the develops during pregnancy.

    However, researchers are looking carefully at the results that show chromium might be effective for treating diabetes. It might not help everyone. Some researchers think that chromium supplements benefit only people with poor nutrition or low chromium levels. Chromium levels can be below normal in people with diabetes.
  • High levels of cholesterol or other blood fats. Some research shows that taking 15-200 mcg of chromium daily for 6-12 weeks lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in people with slightly high or high cholesterol levels. Other research suggests that taking chromium for 7-16 months lowers triglycerides and LDL, and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol. Also, taking chromium alone or along with other supplements seems to reduce levels of blood fats in people with high blood fat levels. However, there is some evidence that taking chromium daily for 10 weeks does not improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Athletic performance. Some early evidence that suggests taking chromium while participating in resistance training can increase weight loss, body fat loss, and lean body mass. However, most reliable research shows that taking chromium by mouth does not enhance body building, strength, or lean body mass.
  • Binge eating disorder. Research suggests that taking chromium picolinate by mouth daily for 6 months does not affect weight, depression symptoms, or the frequency of binge eating in people with binge eating disorder.
  • Prediabetes. Taking chromium does not seem to help control sugar levels people with prediabetes.
  • Obesity. There is some conflicting evidence about the effects of chromium on obesity. Some limited research suggests that chromium might improve weight loss in some people who are overweight or obese. But the amount of weight loss is probably not clinically significant. Furthermore, most research suggests that taking chromium by mouth does not improve weight loss.
  • Schizophrenia. Research shows that taking 400 mcg of chromium daily for 3 months does not affect weight or mental health in people with schizophrenia.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Age-related mental decline. Research suggests that taking 1000 mcg of chromium daily for 12 weeks does not improve memory or depression in older people with mild mental decline. However, images of the brain show that taking chromium can increase some brain activity during memory games.
  • High blood sugar associated with HIV treatments. Early research suggests that taking chromium nicotinate or chromium picolinate daily for 8-16 weeks might help reduce insulin resistance in HIV patients receiving antiretroviral therapy.
  • A type of depression called atypical depression. Early research suggests that chromium picolinate might improve the remission rate in people with atypical depression. However, other evidence suggests that taking chromium picolinate does not improve most symptoms of this type of depression.
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels caused by medications. Early research suggests that taking 600 mcg of chromium daily for 2 months increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol in men who take a class of drugs called beta-blockers.
  • Bipolar disorder. Early research suggests that taking 600-800 mcg of chromium chloride daily for up to 2 years can decrease the frequency of severe mood disturbances in people with bipolar disorder that is resistant to treatment.
  • Long-term depression (dysthymia). There is some early evidence that chromium might improve how people with long-term, mild, depression respond to antidepressants. Taking chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate seems to improve mood in people who only partially respond to antidepressants.
  • Low blood sugar. Early research suggests that taking chromium chloride daily for 3 months improves symptoms and increases blood sugar levels in people with low blood sugar. Other early research suggests that taking chromium (Biochrome, Pharma-Nord, Denmark) by mouth daily for 3 months improves symptoms, including chilliness, trembling, and disorientation, in people with low blood sugar.
  • Metabolic syndrome. Early evidence suggests that taking a specific chromium product (Chromax, Nutrition21, Purchase, NY) twice daily for 12 weeks does not affect weight, waist circumferences, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
  • Heart attack. Research suggests that having low chromium levels in the toenail is associated with an increased risk for heart attack. However, toenail levels might not accurately measure chromium levels in the body. There is no reliable research showing that chromium supplements can prevent a heart attack.
  • An ovary disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Early research suggests that taking chromium picolinate once or twice daily might improve the removal of sugar in women with ovarian disease. However, other early research shows that taking chromium does not benefit women with this disease.
  • Turner's syndrome (an inherited disease that often leads to diabetes). Early research suggests chromium supplements might improve the processing of sugar and fat in people with Turner's syndrome.
  • High blood sugar related to steroid use.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of chromium for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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