Chromium supplements are most recognized for their ability to improve the action of natural insulin. But there are other uses, as well as precautions, to be aware of.

Chromium is a mineral that your body needs for some functions of your metabolism. The Food and Drug Administration deemed chromium an essential element in 2001 because of its effect on the way insulin works.

This article explores how your body uses chromium and who may need or benefit from chromium supplements.

Chromium is a mineral that is naturally found in many foods. Some forms of chromium are toxic byproducts of manufacturing and stainless steel devices, but those are not the same as the kind of chromium found in food and dietary supplements.

This mineral is most recognized for its ability to improve the action of natural insulin. But chromium also plays a role in:

While chromium is important for some normal bodily functions, there are also other rumored benefits. Some of these are myths, and others are suspected but remain unconfirmed:

  • Blood sugar levels: Chromium has some impact on the effectiveness of insulin, but studies have not shown a clear benefit in helping to regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or obesity.
  • Metabolic syndrome: As with diabetes, chromium has been thought to have some benefit to people with metabolic syndrome because of its effect on insulin’s action. However, studies have failed to determine that chromium supplements have beneficial effects on:
    • blood sugar levels
    • fat levels
    • weight
    • waist circumference measurements
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This endocrine disorder affects females of childbearing age and can affect fertility. The use of chromium in treating this condition has focused on improving lipid levels and blood sugar regulation, but results are mixed on how well chromium supplements work for PCOS.
  • Dyslipidemia: Some studies have linked dyslipidemia or high cholesterol levels to low levels of chromium, but it remains unclear whether chromium supplementation can actually lower cholesterol levels.
  • Weight loss: Chromium plays a role in insulin use and lipid metabolism, so some theories suggest that this mineral might help with weight loss and lean muscle building. There’s some evidence that chromium supplements — chromium picolinate, in particular — has a small but significant effect on body weight and body fat levels.

Can chromium supplements be used for weight loss?

Chromium may have some impact on weight loss, and it’s often sold as a supplement aimed at promoting metabolism or weight loss. But evidence to support its use for weight loss is mixed. In studies in which chromium did lead to weight loss, the effects were small but significant.

If you’re interested in losing weight, you can talk with a doctor about your weight loss goals and whether chromium supplements are right for you. Like many other vitamins and minerals, chromium may interfere with certain health conditions or interact with medications.

Was this helpful?

Although chromium is an essential mineral, there’s little evidence that taking these supplements helps people reach their desired health goals.

Studies have observed improvements in blood sugar levels, weight loss, and muscle building, but these changes have been small.

Research suggests that chromium supplements have some impact on health conditions such as PCOS and diabetes, but the significance of these effects is still unclear. More research is needed.

Chromium deficiencies are rare, and most people get enough of this mineral from food. Adults need 20–35 micrograms (mcg) of chromium each day, and many foods contain this mineral.

Foods with notable amounts of chromium include meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods and drinks that contain yeasts. The exact amounts of chromium in various foods may depend on the soil conditions in the places where those foods are produced.

Some of the foods that contain the largest amounts of chromium are:

  • grape juice (7.5 mcg per serving)
  • ham (3.6 mcg per serving)
  • whole wheat English muffins (3.6 mcg per serving)
  • brewer’s yeast (3.3 mcg per serving)
  • orange juice (2.2 mcg per serving)
  • beef (2 mcg per serving)
  • lettuce (1.8 mcg per serving)

There’s no set daily maximum for chromium. This is because there’s little evidence that consuming too much chromium can cause side effects. However, people with underlying kidney or liver disease may have a higher risk of chromium toxicity.

Excessive chromium intake may produce the following symptoms:

People with liver and kidney disease may need to be careful of excessive chromium supplementation.

Medication interactions are a bigger concern. Chromium supplementation could change the action of or otherwise interact with the following medications:

if you’re taking any of these medications, talk with a doctor or pharmacist before taking chromium supplements.

Chromium is an essential mineral, but deficiencies are rare and there’s little evidence that supplementation can help you reach health goals such as weight loss and better blood sugar regulation.

Before starting to take any dietary supplements, talk with a doctor to make sure they won’t interfere with any medications you’re taking or any medical conditions you have.