Chromium polynicotinate may play a small role in our bodies’ chemistry, but it’s still an important one. This mineral is essential to good health and has been found in numerous studies to have an impact on insulin sensitivity in particular.
Everything you need to know about chromium will be covered in this article, including a review of the top four brands of chromium supplements.
What It Is
According to the National Institutes of Health, chromium is a mineral that’s required for human health in trace amounts. There are two forms: trivalent (chromium 3+) which is found in food and nutritional supplements, and hexavalent (chromium 6+) which is toxic and usually the result of industrial pollution. This article focuses on the trivalent form of chromium.
If you’re confused by the many different names for chromium, you’re not alone. WebMD has many alternative names listed, but the most common are chromium, chromium 3+, chromium polynicotinate, chromium picolinate, and chromium proteinate.
Chromium has been found to enhance the action of insulin. According to a study done in 2013, chromium improves insulin binding, insulin receptor number, and overall insulin sensitivity.
Chromium is also suspected to be involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism according to the National Institutes of Health, but more research is needed before the exact relationship can be determined.
Foods that Contain Chromium
According to the Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University, processed meats, whole-grains, high-bran cereals, green beans, broccoli, nuts, and egg yolks are all good sources of chromium. In contrast, foods high in simple sugars are low in chromium and may even promote loss of chromium in the body.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a true chromium deficiency is rare, and it’s often a sign of diabetes. Because chromium is tied to insulin regulation in the body, being deficient in chromium can lead to diabetes-like symptoms, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care. There have been studies where chromium was added to a patient’s diet, and their symptoms of diabetes disappeared.
Chromium Levels in the Body
Vitamin C and the B vitamin niacin enhances chromium’s absorption in the body, according to the Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University. Absorbed chromium is then stored in the liver, spleen, soft tissue, and bone.
A study done in 1986 found that diets high in simple sugars can result in chromium excretion in the urine. Other conditions can lead to loss of chromium in the body, according to a study published in Diabetes Care. These include pregnancy and lactation, infection, stress, and acute exercise.
Common Uses and Doses
While there is evidence to show that chromium is effective in the treatment of some disorders, there are also some that do not have enough studies to back up the claims of efficacy.
Each condition chromium has been used to treat is listed in detail below.
According to a 2004 study on diabetes, patients with type 2 diabetes have lower levels of chromium in their bodies. When patients were given 200-1,000 mcg of chromium, their control over their blood glucose levels increased.
A study on chromium’s role in diabetes and human health reviewed current studies and found that chromium is essential in the role of insulin in the body. There is growing evidence that giving supplements of chromium helps patients with diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
An often-cited study from 1990 found that patients who took a supplement of chromium saw a significant decrease in their LDL (the bad cholesterol) while seeing an increase in their HDL (good cholesterol).
However, an even older study from 1983 gave chromium as a supplement to 76 patients, but the researchers did not find chromium to have any significant effect on cholesterol levels.
As noted in the fact sheet published by the National Institutes for Health, there were several studies conducted in the 90s that found that 150-1,000 mcg of chromium a day had a significant effect on lowering LDL and raising HDL for patients with high cholesterol.
A study conducted in 2007 found that chromium significantly lowered free fatty acid levels, which are the major sources of fat in the body.
Chromium was found to help glucose and lipid metabolize in the body when given as a supplement in a 2018 study on the effects of chromium on the lipid profile.
In obese rats, chromium was found to enhance insulin sensitivity, glucose disappearance, and improve lipids in a 2002 study.
Athletes are known to excrete chromium in greater amounts than usual, and because of this, a dietary supplement can help restore the chromium levels in their bodies. A study on whether or not giving chromium as a supplement to athletes was beneficial found that it can help them restore their lower levels of chromium and promote optimal insulin efficiency. This, in turn, helps athletes perform better because insulin efficiency is needed for optimal metabolism in the body. However, there is no evidence that chromium specifically boosts athletic performance.
Two other studies found that the benefits of chromium to athletic performance are questionable. One is a study from 2001 that recognizes the role of magnesium and zinc but calls for further research on chromium’s role in athletic performance.
The other is a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that finds that while chromium is helpful in insulin efficiency, its proposed effects on increasing lean body mass while decreasing body fat have not been proven.
Therefore, it cannot be confirmed that chromium can boost athletic performance directly.
According to WebMD, chromium has few side effects. Some people have reported skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood changes, impaired thinking, impaired judgment, and impaired concentration.
Because of chromium’s role in insulin efficiency, it can interact with taking insulin, according to WebMD. It may lower your blood sugar even more, which can lead it to become too low.
Chromium can also impact how much levothyroxine (Synthroid) is absorbed in your body, which can make it less effective. According to WebMD, levothyroxine should be taken 30 minutes before or 3-4 hours after taking chromium.
Lastly, taking NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) at the same time as chromium can increase chromium levels in the body beyond the recommended amount and cause adverse effects, according to WebMD.