World’s Healthiest Foods rich in
For serving size for specific foods see the Nutrient Rating Chart.
- Basic Description
- Role in Health Support
- Summary of Food Sources
- Nutrient Rating Chart
- Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing
- Risk of Dietary Deficiency
- Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency
- Relationship with Other Nutrients
- Risk of Dietary Toxicity
- Disease Checklist
- Public Health Recommendations
- What Is Chromium Beneficial For and How Do We Get Enough?
- 8 Health Benefits of Chromium
- 1. Helps Control Blood Sugar and Prevent Diabetes
- 2. Helps Reduce High Cholesterol
- 3. May Help Prevent Weight Gain and Overeating
- 4. Helps Maintain Brain Health and Fight Cognitive Decline
- 5. May Help Improve Skin Health and Prevent Acne
- 6. Supports a Healthy Metabolism and Energy Levels
- 7. Helps Maintain Eye Health
- 8. Helps Protect Bones From Fractures and Osteoporosis
- Best Food Sources of Chromium
- Chromium-Based Recipes to Try
- The benefits and risks of chromium
- Chromium picolinate
- What is chromium picolinate?
- Important Information
- Before taking this medicine
- How should I take chromium picolinate?
- What happens if I miss a dose?
- What happens if I overdose?
- What should I avoid while taking chromium picolinate?
- Chromium picolinate side effects
- What other drugs will affect chromium picolinate?
- Further information
- More about chromium picolinate
- What are the risks of taking chromium?
- Chromium: The forgotten mineral
- What is chromium?
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine
You might think by looking at the chart above that chromium is a mineral mostly missing in the food supply. However, it would definitely be wrong to draw this conclusion. Chromium is provided by every food group—including vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, seafood, meats and dairy—so it is definitely not a missing mineral in our foods. However, chromium is present in many foods in very small amounts (1-2 micrograms or less). In fact, our rating system only calculated one excellent source of chromium. So we think about this mineral as one that you obtain by eating an overall healthy diet rather than any specific foods. It’s also important to note that the chromium content of food has been inadequately measured by food scientists. Research journals typically show less than 10 total measurements for chromium in any particular food, and many of these measurements show little consistency. As a result, we know that many foods contain small amounts of chromium, but we are still not sure about exact amounts or how amounts might vary under different circumstances. Once again, these factors shift the focus onto an overall healthy diet when evaluating intake of chromium.
Foods rich in chromium, specifically brewer’s yeast, have been used to help balance blood sugar since the time of the Civil War. In the 1950s, researchers discovered the role of chromium in blood sugar control, a role we describe below in the Role in Health Support section.
Among the foods where the chromium content is noted, we have broccoli listed as an excellent source. We also list six foods as good sources. These foods are barley, oats, green beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and black pepper.
While we don’t know the exact chromium content of many of the World’s Healthiest Foods, it appears that our strategy of eating—based around minimally processed and plant-rich meals with liberal use of spices—would be expected to ensure a consistent supply of this mineral.
Role in Health Support
Blood Sugar Control
A key role for chromium in the body is related to control of blood sugar. There is a signal molecule called low-molecular weight chromium binding substance (LMWCr) involved in blood sugar control. (You may also hear this molecule being referred to as chromodulin.) Although it has a long name, LMWCr it is a tiny molecule, built from just a few amino acids.
This LMWCr binds next to the place where insulin, a key hormone that controls blood sugar, interacts with the outside of a cell. Its role is to increase the strength of the signal that insulin sends, helping to drive blood sugar into cells more quickly after a meal. (It is also worth noting here that LMWCr is a very specifically defined molecule with a specifically defined metabolic role. Prior to discovery of LMWCr, a much less clearly defined molecule called glucose tolerance factor, or GTF, had been the subject of much interest in nutrition and was typically thought to involve a combination of chromium, vitamin B3, and select amino acids. However, unlike LMWCr, GTF remains to be specifically defined or universally accepted by researchers.)
We have seen evidence of chromium deficiency leading to abnormally high blood sugar as well as evidence that restoring chromium supply back toward normal or higher can enhance blood sugar control even in some people with diabetes. Research studies of this kind underscore the importance of LMWCr and chromium for blood sugar balance.
Healthy diets like the World’s Healthiest Foods eating plan tend to be associated with low risk for type 2 diabetes. Strong chromium nutrition is one of many reasons this would be true.
Note that some of our chromium-rich World’s Healthiest Foods have additional ways that they help balance blood sugar. Cinnamon and sweet potatoes would be a couple examples of these. Here’s a tasty recipe—Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Cinnamon—that combines them.
Summary of Food Sources
Because the amounts of chromium in foods are quite small, researchers have struggled to clearly quantify dietary chromium intake in the same way we can with other nutrients. However, based on our overall understanding of food and nutrients, we are confident that many of the World’s Healthiest Foods contain chromium, even if the database we use to determine content is incomplete. Broccoli, which does have a measured value for chromium in our database, contains about half of your daily requirement per serving and ranks as an excellent source of this nutrient. In the vegetable group, tomatoes, green beans, and romaine lettuce rank as good sources.
Several whole grains, including oats and barley, rank as good sources of chromium in our rating system. Other clearly-established food sources of chromium (but not ranked in our system as good, very good, or excellent sources) include fruits like apples and bananas, meats like chicken, grains like brown rice, and dairy products like eggs and cow’s milk. Herbs and spices also provide measurable amounts of chromium, with black pepper ranking as a good source in our rating system. As described earlier, we are confident that many foods in addition to the ones listed above contain very small-to-small amounts of chromium.
To summarize your best food options for increasing chromium in your meal plan: while we only show 7 WHFoods as being ranked sources of chromium, and while only 11 additional WHFoods show actual microgram amounts for chromium, we are confident that you will be getting chromium from whole, natural foods in all food groups, as well as in herbs and spices. When trying to increase your chromium intake, it’s important to take a broad approach involving an overall healthy diet.
Nutrient Rating Chart
Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the World’s Healthiest Foods that are either an excellent, very good, or good source of chromium. Next to each food name, you’ll find the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition, the calories contained in the serving, the amount of chromium contained in one serving size of the food, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.
|World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
|Green Beans||1 cup||43.8||2.04||6||2.4||good|
|Romaine Lettuce||2 cups||16.0||1.25||4||4.0||good|
|Black Pepper||2 tsp||14.6||0.93||3||3.3||good|
Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing
Researchers have looked at the chromium content of prepared and convenience foods, and the amount of chromium loss varies substantially with the type of food and the type of processing. There do appear to be some patterns, though.
Turning a whole grain into a refined one appears to result in a large percentage reduction in chromium content. For example, a serving of white bread contains about half the chromium of an equivalent amount of whole-wheat bread.
Cooking vegetables, at least lightly boiling or steaming them, does not appear to deplete excessive amounts of chromium. We’ve seen studies showing loss of approximately 5-30% chromium from vegetables cooked in this way.
Risk of Dietary Deficiency
We don’t yet know if there is a true deficiency state of chromium, or if there is at what intake level it would emerge. Also, limitations in the ability to measure chromium in human tissues as well as food make it difficult to study large populations.
We do believe, however, that chromium levels vary with age, with levels going down by up to 40% in older versus younger people. This drop is probably related to dietary intake, as other research groups have concluded that chromium intake in older persons is frequently below recommended amounts.
People who eat highly refined diets, especially ones rich in simple sugars, also may be at risk of deficient chromium intake. In other words, their diet choices might leave them consuming too little chromium. One research group has also suggested that these same sugar-laden diets increase the rate of chromium loss from the body, exacerbating the deficiency risk. Given the central role of chromium in blood sugar control, this two-pronged attack on chromium status is another good reason to avoid routine intake of processed, refined foods that are also high in simple sugars.
The importance of diet quality to chromium levels is also supported by a 2011 study in which a research group taught a group of 169 overweight or prediabetic adults to eat a healthier diet—one that included more fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs than they were used to eating. In response to the healthier meal plan, blood chromium levels went up significantly from where they started.
Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency
Once again, we do not have as much information as we would like in this area. But we do have bits and pieces of information from some specialized areas. People on prolonged intravenous nutrition often develop diabetes. There are many reasons this is true, but one potential reason is chromium deficiency. For these people, getting chromium levels back to normal can reverse the issue.
Heavy exercise can increase the rate of chromium loss in the urine. Whether this is detrimental or could exacerbate deficiency of this nutrient has not been determined.
Relationship with Other Nutrients
Vitamin C enhances the absorption of dietary chromium. For instance, women absorbed more chromium from a supplement when they were simultaneously given 100 mg of vitamin C—about the same amount you’d find in a serving of chromium-rich broccoli. While we believe this supplement study was very helpful for understanding the relationship between chromium and vitamin C, getting both nutrients from a whole, natural food is definitely the approach we recommend.
Chromium and iron can be transported on the same protein (transferrin) in the blood stream. It is plausible that too much of either of these minerals could impair metabolism of the other. But this interaction has never been demonstrated to be a problem in humans.
Risk of Dietary Toxicity
Toxicity from dietary chromium has not been reported, and not very likely to occur. Studies where researchers use chromium like a drug—at doses close to 50 times more than seen with average diets—did not lead to significant risk of adverse effects.
In stark contrast to food intake and diets, there are industrial workplace settings where risk of excessive chromium exposure (in the form of hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6) can be significant. At the top of the list for higher-risk chromium exposure are welding, painting, electroplating, steel and iron manufacture, and textile dyeing. Especially in regions where the above manufacturing facilities are located (including numerous urban locations throughout the U.S.), water supplies can at greater risk for accumulation of chromium. Municipal water supplies are currently monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure maximum chromium levels in water of 100 parts per billion (ppb) or less. If you are concerned about possible exposure to excess chromium in your drinking water, you may want to consider purchase of a home water filter certified for reduction of hexavalent chromium, or the purchase of bottled drinking water from a manufacturer who provides you with information about chromium content.
- Type 2 diabetes (prevention and treatment)
- Metabolic syndrome
- High cholesterol
Public Health Recommendations
In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for chromium. These DRI recommendations came in the form of Adequate Intake (AI) levels as follows:
The NAS did not set a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for chromium.
The Daily Value (DV) for chromium is 120 micrograms (mcg) per 2000 calories. This DV target is used on food labels.
At WHFoods, we adopted the chromium DRI for 14-50 year-old males, since that level was the highest recommended intake amount for any age-gender group (except women who are breastfeeding). This DRI and our WHFoods recommended daily intake level is 35 micrograms.
- Bo S, Milanesio N, Schiavone C, et al. Magnesium and trace element intake after a lifestyle intervention. Nutrition 2011;27:108-10.
- Cabrera-Vique C, Bouzas PR. Chromium and manganese levels in convenience and fast foods: in vitro study of the dialyzable fraction. Food Chem 2009;117:757-63.
- Cefalu WT, Hu FB. Role of chromium in human health and in diabetes. Diabetes Care 2004;27:2741-51.
- Davies S, McLaren-Howard J, Hunnisett A, et al. Age-related decreases in chromium levels in 51,665 hair, sweat, and serum samples from 40,872 patients — implications for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes mellitus. Metabolism 1997;46:469-73.
- Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001;394-419.
- Hua Y, Clark S, Ren J, et al. Molecular mechanisms of chromium in alleviating insulin resistance. J Nutr Biochem 2012;23:313-9.
- Kovacs R, Beni A, Karosi R, et al. Investigation of chromium content in foodstuffs and nutrition supplements by GFAAS and determination of changing Cr(III) to Cr(VI) during baking and toasting bread. Food Chem 2007;105:1209-13.
- Lisiewska Z, Gebczynski P, Bernas E, et al. Retention of mineral constituents in frozen leafy vegetables prepared for consumption. J Food Comp Anal 2009;22:218-23.
- Rubin MA, Miller JP, Ryan AS, et al. Acute and chronic resistive exercise increase urinary chromium excretion in men as measured with an enriched chromium stable isotope. J Nutr 1998;128:73-8.
- Thor MY, Harnack L, King D, et al. Evaluation of the comprehensiveness and reliability of the chromium composition of foods in the literature. J Food Comp Anal 2011;24:1147-52.
- Tinggi U, Reilly C, Patterson C. Determination of manganese and chromium in foods by atomic absorption spectrometry after wet digestion. Food Chem 1997;60:123-8.
- Vaquero MP. Magnesium and trace elements in the elderly: intake, status and recommendations. J Nutr Health Aging 2002;6:147-53.
- Chromium is used by our bodies for carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, and is essential for maintaining normal blood sugar.
- Chromium supplementation may be beneficial in improving blood sugar control in people with diabetes and possibly in preventing type 2 diabetes, but further research is needed to support these findings.
- There is emerging evidence suggesting a link between chromium supplementation, cardiovascular health, and weight loss, but more research is needed in these areas.
- Chromium is present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, so a varied and balanced diet is the best way to ensure adequate intake.
The Basics of Chromium
Chromium (pronounced KROH-mee-um) is a trace mineral that is essential for our bodies to maintain healthy carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Chromium exists in multiple forms, one of which enters our bodies via food and dietary supplements. Another form of chromium is more commonly found in the environment from industrial sources. Our bodies cannot produce chromium, so it is essential that we consume it through our diet.
The mechanisms by which chromium functions in the body are not fully understood, and there is still a fair amount of speculation regarding the full extent of chromium’s functions. Current research has not yet been able to define the full spectrum of chromium’s role in and importance to the human body.
Chromium and Health
The most common association between chromium intake and health benefits is the effect of chromium in helping the body break down sugars and carbohydrates. In the metabolism of foods, chromium is crucial for proper insulin function. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells, where it can be processed for energy or storage. Chromium enhances this function of insulin by acting as a signal to the cells, allowing insulin to transport the glucose inside more easily. Without adequate chromium intake, the body has a difficult time managing the transportation of glucose into the cells, and a chromium deficiency can result in high blood glucose levels.
The discovery of chromium’s role in blood glucose control has led to the theory that chromium supplementation may help prevent or treat diabetes; however, mixed results have emerged from research. One study found an association between people who took chromium-containing supplements and a lower risk of the onset of type 2 diabetes. Another study found that chromium supplementation produced positive effects on blood sugar control for those with diabetes, in addition to improving levels of triglycerides and HDL-Cholesterol (the “good” form of cholesterol). On the other hand, a separate study found limited evidence to support the use of chromium supplementation for glycemic control in those with type 2 diabetes. More research is needed on the effect of chromium supplementation on glycemic control for those with diabetes.
As of now, the mechanism for how chromium may affect blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels is unclear. However, research results have led to the hypothesis that chromium may support cardiovascular health, although existing studies are limited and further exploration is needed.
Additionally, there are hypothesized benefits of chromium supplementation for weight loss, but existing results may not be clinically significant and more research is required to determine a connection.
The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have set Adequate Intake (AIs) for chromium:
Adequate Intakes (AIs) for Chromium (micrograms (mcg)/day)
|Birth to 6 months||0.2||0.2|
Source: The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
The general population appears to be meeting the AIs recommended for chromium, and very few cases of serious deficiency have been reported. Chromium deficiency has been seen primarily in those individuals who are on parenteral nutrition (TPN) and being given solutions that do not contain chromium, resulting in improper blood glucose control and poor carbohydrate metabolism. There are also groups who are at risk for increased chromium losses through urinary excretion, including athletes and individuals who consume diets high in simple sugars like those found in soda, baked goods, packaged treats and fruit juices. Chromium is also more quickly depleted during pregnancy and lactation, putting women in those categories at higher risk for chromium deficiency.
No Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) have been set for chromium, as there have been few serious adverse effects recorded in relation to an excess intake of chromium. However, it is important to keep in mind that dietary chromium is only one form; there are other forms of chromium that can be associated with negative outcomes on health. Industrial sources can transmit a different form of chromium that has been established as a carcinogen when exposure is chronic or long-term.
Food Sources of Chromium
Chromium is widely available in our food supply; however, analysis of specific chromium levels in specific foods has not proven to be reliable. There are a large number of factors that affect chromium levels, including agricultural practices, location and soil quality, and manufacturing processes. These can contribute to large differences in chromium content within the same food product depending on where it was grown and how it was processed. Currently, no dietary analysis tools specify levels of chromium in food items, including the USDA’s Food Composition Database. When dietary intake is inadequate, chromium may also be taken in supplemental form, with chromium picolinate being the most effective.
Food Sources of Chromium (mcg/serving)
|Turkey ham (processed)||3 ounces||10.4|
|Grape juice||8 fluid ounces||7.5|
|Potatoes (mashed)||1 cup||2.7|
|Orange juice||8 fluid ounces||2.2|
|Turkey breast||3 ounces||1.7|
|Green beans||½ cup||1.1|
Source: Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University
Meats, poultry, fish, and various fruits, vegetables and whole grains tend to provide higher levels of chromium. Vitamin C helps enhance the absorption of chromium in the digestive tract, so consuming foods high in vitamin C may positively influence the body’s uptake of chromium as well. With that being said, the best way to ensure adequate intake of chromium is to consume a diet that includes a wide variety of foods across all food groups.
This blog post was written by Madeline Radigan, dietetic intern with the IFIC Foundation, with contributions by Ali Webster, PhD, RD.
Chromium, a type of chemical element that’s actually a hard and brittle metal, is a trace mineral needed by the body in small amounts for healthy functioning. What is chromium most well-researched for in regard to promoting health? Blood sugar and diabetes control, heart health, weight management and brain health are all known benefits of chromium.
Chromium plays a role in the insulin-signaling pathways that allow our bodies to control the amount of sugar we take in, helping balance blood glucose levels and giving us stable energy. Research also shows that chromium can help protect DNA chromosomes from damage, which means chromium may be able to halt cell mutations that can lead to various chronic diseases. In addition, chromium is associated with longevity and improved cardiovascular health due to its role in metabolizing fats, in addition to proteins, carbs and other nutrients.
According to the National Institute of Health, there are two types of chromium: 1) trivalent (chromium 3+), which is considered “biologically active” and can be found in foods, and 2) hexavalent (chromium 6+), which is considered toxic and unsafe for humans, so it’s used in industrial applications and isn’t meant to be acquired from foods. (1) (Chromium 6 is a chemical that appears to cause cancer and was featured in the Erin Brockovich story that was made into a film, plus it infiltrated the tap water for over two-thirds of all Americans.) (2)
What is chromium found in? Chromium is naturally present in many whole foods, including brewer’s yeast, certain kinds of meats, vegetables, potatoes and whole grains. Chromium enters the body mostly through diet since it’s stored in soil and rocks that penetrate the crops we wind up eating, plus in smaller amounts in the water that we drink. Drinking tap water supplies some of our chromium, as does cooking in stainless-steel cookware.
What Is Chromium Beneficial For and How Do We Get Enough?
According to the USDA, chromium deficiency isn’t very common in the U.S. and other developed nations since most people consume enough chromium on a daily basis on average to meet or exceed the “adequate intake” amount (the total amount needed to support health and prevent chromium deficiency). Although it’s not the way I’d recommend getting enough chromium, chromium is present in whole wheat products (including whole wheat bread and cereals) so this is likely one reason why Americans, who have diets high in refined carbohydrates in most cases, may get enough chromium on average.
On average, adult women in the U.S. consume about 23 to 29 micrograms of chromium per day from food (meeting their needs), and men consume about 39 to 54 micrograms per day (exceeding their needs), according to USDA reports. Even infants usually get enough chromium whether they’re breast-fed or formula-fed, since the average amount of chromium in breast milk of healthy, well-nourished mothers is about 0.24 micrograms per quart (the ideal amount that’s equal to the recommended daily intake).
On the other hand, some medical researchers believe chromium deficiency is much more prevalent, especially in people who don’t properly respond to insulin — which is a good deal of the population that’s overweight and eats a poor diet. People with diabetes and the elderly are more likely to have a chromium deficiency than otherwise healthy adults or children.
When a chromium-based deficiency does occur, common symptoms include:
- poor blood glucose control
- worsened levels of weak bones and bone loss
- low energy, fatigue
- poor skin health
- higher risk for high cholesterol and heart complications
- low concentration and poor memory
- worsened eye health
- mood changes, like increases in anxiety
- changes in appetite
- changes in weight
- stunted growth and development
- delayed time in healing wounds or recovering from surgery
Recommended Daily Intake of Chromium
The established Dietary Reference Intakes of chromium were developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and are based on the amount needed by people who are otherwise healthy, so your exact needs may differ a bit depending on your current health, weight and level of activity.
Adequate intakes for chromium are based on age and gender and are as follows: (3)
- Infants 0 to 6 months: 0.2 micrograms
- Children 7 to 12 months: 5.5 micrograms
- 1 to 3 years: 11 micrograms
- 4 to 8 years: 15 micrograms
- 9 to 13 years: 25 micrograms for boys, 21 micrograms for girls
- Teens 14 to 18 years: 35 micrograms for boys, 24 micrograms for girls
- Adults 19 to 50 years: 35 micrograms for men, 25 micrograms for women
- Women who are pregnant: 30 micrograms
- Women who breastfeeding: 35 micrograms
Other health care professionals recommend more chromium to help with blood sugar control, especially for people with existing cases of mild or serious insulin-resistance or diabetes; 200 micrograms a day as part of a multivitamin is recommended by many nutrition experts, and high doses up to 1,000 micrograms for those with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome are prescribed in some cases.
Are Chromium Supplements Necessary and Safe?
The benefits of taking chromium supplements is still somewhat controversial and questioned by some medical experts, since studies to date show mixed results. Dietary supplements containing chromium include chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate and several other related types. You can buy chromium-based supplements in tablet or capsule form, plus as part of a multivitamin, but since we only need such a small amount and most people already consume enough, it isn’t usually necessary for most adults.
Because researchers still find it hard to verify a specific biological role of chromium in the body, meaning one that other minerals or substances can’t carry out effectively without chromium, there isn’t agreement in the health community whether people should take a chromium supplement regularly or not. Most nutrition experts believe that food sources are a much healthier way to obtain the right amount of chromium.
For example, in 2014, the European Food Safety Authority published a report stating that chromium has no proven beneficial effects on health in otherwise healthy adults, so chromium was removed from the list of essential nutrients. On top of this, a chromium supplement can sometimes be expensive, which might deter people from consistently taking them.
What is chromium potentially capable of doing to our health if we consume too much of it? Most studies show that chromium is safe within moderate amounts but that too much can cause toxicity and some serious effects. Luckily, chromium overdoses are very rare since chromium only enters cells in very small amounts, while the rest gets flushed from the body somewhat easily. When someone does acquire too much (very likely from supplements and not food sources), chromium can potentially enters cells and lead to DNA damage, so it’s always smart to avoid taking any more than the recommended dose.
As with all nutrients, also try to obtain enough from natural whole food sources; this way you know you’re acquiring the right mix of vitamins and minerals that nature intended, without posing much of a risk for overdoing it on any particular nutrient.
8 Health Benefits of Chromium
1. Helps Control Blood Sugar and Prevent Diabetes
Chromium can help enhance the role of insulin, the critical hormone that controls blood sugar and helps bring glucose into cells where it’s used for bodily energy. Chromium also supports a healthy metabolism and storage of nutrients throughout the body, since it can help you better absorb and distribute nutrients from carbohydrates, fats and proteins found in the foods you eat.
Brewer’s yeast (also called nutritional yeast), for example, is a high source of chromium and has been found to help support metabolism of sugar (in the form of glucose) within the blood, which is beneficial for preventing glucose-intolerance, insulin-resistance and diabetes formation. (4a)
One study conducted by the Human Nutrition Research Center U.S. Department of Agriculture found that when individuals being treated for type 2 diabetes were either given a placebo or chromium supplements over a four-month period each day while continuing to take normal medications and not changing eating habits, insulin values and cholesterol levels decreased significantly in the group given supplemental chromium compared to the placebo group. (4b)
However, it’s important to note that studies show mixed results when it comes to chromium’s effectiveness in preventing diabetes. Many studies show beneficial effects, but others show that chromium doesn’t have a strong ability to control blood sugar in people prone to diabetes without combining it with any other intervention methods. (5)
2. Helps Reduce High Cholesterol
Chromium is needed for normal metabolism of fats, including cholesterol. Research shows a link between higher chromium intake and healthier arteries and levels of blood cholesterol. Some studies even show that people who die from heart disease tend to have lower levels of chromium in the blood at the time of death.
When researchers at the Department of Medical Education of Mercy Hospital and Medical Center tested the effects of chromium supplementation in adults over a 42-day period, the participants experienced lowered levels of total cholesterol and lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol when taking chromium compared to the placebo group. (6)
3. May Help Prevent Weight Gain and Overeating
Chromium (in the form chromium picolinate or CrPic) has been associated with a reduction in the risk for obesity, less weight gain and may positively affect food intake. At this time, the exact mechanism by which chromium affects hunger and weight is still unknown, but some studies find that higher chromium intake is associated with a reduction in adipose tissue (fat accumulation on the body) and better controlled eating.
One study done by the Biomedical Research Center at the Louisiana State University found that chromium supplements effectively helped modulate food intake in healthy, overweight, adult women who reported craving carbohydrates. After comparing the effects of chromium versus placebo in 42 overweight women over an eight-week period, the group taking 1,000 milligrams of chromium daily experienced reduced food intake, reduced hunger levels, fewer fat cravings and a slight decrease in body weight. (7)
4. Helps Maintain Brain Health and Fight Cognitive Decline
Recent studies highlight the role of healthy insulin response in maintaining brain health and cognitive function into old age. Because chromium is capable of improving glucose levels and insulin response, it may act as a beneficial modulator of brain function and is associated with a reduction of age-related alterations of the brain.
Specifically, chromium is linked to healthier hypothalamic functions. The hypothalamus is extremely important, a central part of the autonomic nervous system that helps controls body temperature, thirst, hunger, sleep and emotional activity. (8) Research suggests that chromium can help keep the hypothalamus in a more youthful state, better regulate appetite in elderly adults and prevent negative effects on brain neurons caused by aging.
Many other parts of the brain may also benefit from higher chromium levels, including the the pineal gland and thymus, which are also impacted by insulin control.
5. May Help Improve Skin Health and Prevent Acne
Rapid changes in blood sugar levels are associated with acne and other skin reactions, so because chromium helps to balance blood sugar levels it is linked with improvements in skin health. Foods rich in chromium (such as broccoli) also usually contain other phyotnutrients and antioxidants that can improve skin’s appearance and help fight acne or common signs of aging.
6. Supports a Healthy Metabolism and Energy Levels
Getting adequate amounts of trace minerals like chromium, calcium and magnesium are especially important for people who are active, since these micronutrients are needed to ensure the capacity to boost energy (calorie) expenditure, muscle and work performance.
Especially when someone restricts her body weight by eating less food and exercising, she needs to make sure to include plenty of chromium-rich foods in her diet in order to keep her metabolism running strong. Eating chromium-containing foods is important to make up for the loss of chromium being excreted through extra urine and sweat due to the recovery period following exercise. (9)
7. Helps Maintain Eye Health
What is chromium useful for when it comes to protecting your eye sight? Chromium can help protect from age-related eye disorders like glaucoma. Glaucoma is related to diabetes and caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye, adding harmful pressure to the eye’s delicate optic nerve, retina and lens, which can eventually lead to blindness. Chromium can lower the risk for diabetes and related eye disorders because of its beneficial role in controlling blood glucose.
8. Helps Protect Bones From Fractures and Osteoporosis
Chromium is known to slow the loss of calcium, so it might be beneficial for preventing bone loss and bone-related disorders that are especially common in older women. Therefore, it’s also a natural remedy for osteoporosis.
Best Food Sources of Chromium
At this time, there isn’t a reliable database of chromium content within common foods that’s been authorized by the USDA or another credible authority. Another factor that makes it difficult to know what the best food sources are of chromium is that chromium content varies widely within a particular food depending on where it was grown, since soil quality has a lot to do with chromium’s presence.
Other natural factors that affect how much chromium is present in foods are the time of year the food was grown, the exact plant species, the ripeness of the food and how long it’s been sitting since being harvested — and possibly contamination from the environment. Chromium can also increase in concentration when it leaks into a food during cooking from stainless steel or nickel pots and pans.
According to the USDA, below are 12 of the best food sources for obtaining more chromium naturally through your diet: (10)
(Percentages based on the RDA for the average adult woman):
- Broccoli — 1 cup cooked: 22 micrograms (88 percent DV)
- Grapes/Grape Juice (pure, unsweetened) – 1 cup juice: 8 micrograms (32 percent DV)
- Potatoes — 1 cup: 3 micrograms (12 percent DV)
- Garlic — 1 teaspoon: 3 micrograms (12 percent DV)
- Basil — 1 tablespoon: 2 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Grass-Fed Beef — 3 oz: 2 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Oranges/Orange Juice (pure, unsweetened) — 1 cup: 2 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Turkey — 3 oz: 2 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Green Beans — 1 cup cooked: 2 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Red Wine — 5 ounces: (varies widely) 1–13 micrograms (4–52 percent DV)
- Apples — 1 medium: 1 micrograms (4 percent DV)
- Bananas — 1 medium: 1 micrograms (4 percent DV)
Chromium-Based Recipes to Try
Broccoli Cheese Soup Recipe
Total Time: 35 minutes Serves: 4 INGREDIENTS:
- 4 heads of organic broccoli (chopped)
- 6 cups of organic baby kale
- 8 organic green onions
- 6 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 cup ghee
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 16 ounces kefir
- 2 cups raw cheddar cheese
- Place the butter, green onions, garlic, kale and broccoli in a large pot and sauté them for 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring consistently.
- Add in the bone broth and heat for another 5–10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour contents back into the pot and simmer over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the kefir and cheese and stir well. Once incorporated, serve.
Roasted Garlic & Sweet Potato Soup Recipe
Crockpot Beef and Broccoli Recipe
Apple Quinoa and Kale Salad Recipe
What Are the Risks of Taking Too Much Chromium?
The chromium that you get from food sources alone won’t cause any problems, but taking high levels in supplement form can potentially interact with certain medications and worsen existing health conditions.
Excessive chromium is sometimes linked to digestive problems, like stomach aches, along with low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Chromium toxicity, which can occur when very high levels are present within the body, has the potential to cause damage to vital organs like the liver, kidneys and heart. Although it’s very rare and unlikely to happen, chromium toxicity is marked by changes in nerve signaling and heart beat, so always be sure not to take high doses of supplements without first speaking with a doctor.
Read Next: Power Mineral: Phosphorus Helps Your Body Detox & Strengthen
The benefits and risks of chromium
Chromium picolinate is a popular supplement often marketed to those wanting to build muscle or lose weight. Some bodybuilders and athletes take it to enhance performance and increase energy.
Early studies suggested that supplemental chromium may contribute to weight loss and help increase muscle mass. These studies were not conclusive, but more recent studies have shown improved muscle growth or a decrease in fat mass.
In addition, the amount of weight lost was not considered sufficient to make supplements worthwhile. Some of those taking the supplement also experienced side effects, including watery stool, vertigo, headaches, and hives.
Past research was unable to confirm that supplemental chromium could benefit people with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes, but more recent studies indicate that it may help in managing diabetes, reducing levels of blood lipids, enhancing weight loss, and improving body composition.
In one study, 96 patients with type 2 diabetes took either 400 micrograms (mcg) a day of chromium picolinate, 200 mcg a day, or a placebo.
Those who took 400 mcg daily saw improvements in endothelial function, lipid profile, and biomarkers of oxidative stress, suggesting that chromium picolinate could benefit patients with type 2 diabetes.
Findings published in 2017 in Nature, suggest that chromium picolinate, combined with statin medications, might help reduce the symptoms of atherosclerosis in mice. If so, chromium supplements could help improve heart health, especially in those with diabetes.
A further study has supported this. Researchers gave 19 people who were overweight but otherwise healthy a drink containing amino acids and chromium picolinate at breakfast. Those who consumed the drink had smaller blood sugar spikes, compared with those who did not.
Share on PinterestChromium supplements are often sold to support exercise, weight loss, and bodybuilding.
Supplements are like medications. They can interact with other substances, and too much can be harmful.
Chromium picolinate interferes with the absorption of thyroid medications. Thyroid medication should be taken at least 3 to 4 hours before or after any chromium supplement.
Supplemental chromium can interact with antacids, corticosteroids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, beta-blockers, insulin, nicotinic acid, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and prostaglandin inhibitors.
People who are using any of these drugs, and those with diabetes should speak to their doctor before taking chromium supplements, as these could affect the action of their regular medications.
Chromium supplements should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, and they should not be given to children.
Chromium is mainly found within animal and plant tissues and can be found in foods like broccoli, barley, oats, green beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and black pepper. One of the richest sources of chromium is brewer’s yeast, which has been used for decades to help balance blood sugar. The best way to gain chromium is through a diet that is minimally processed and plant-rich with a liberal use of spices in order to ensure a consistent supply of this particular mineral.
Because the amounts of chromium within food are quite small, researchers have struggled to confirm dietary chromium intake in the same way that has been done with other nutrients. We have already noted that plant sources contain important amounts of chromium and broccoli is one of the only sources that has a chromium measured value of around half of your required daily intake per serving. Corn and sweet potatoes may also contain at least half of your adequate intake of chromium.
Other than plant sources, meats such as grass-fed beef appear to be excellent sources of chromium, as well as shellfish like scallops and shrimp, although the significance of their chromium concentration could partially depend on where they are harvested from. Another great way to gain chromium that people often overlook is the use of fresh spices, like cinnamon, ginger and cumin. Onions and garlic are also good sources of this important mineral.
Because chromium is apparent in all food groups, the risk of deficiency is very low. However, to gain maximum benefits from your foods, it is best to keep your foods fresh and reduce processing. Here is a list of foods that may not have already been mentioned across the food groups where chromium, even in small quantities, can be found:
- Brown rice
- Green beans
Generic Name: chromium picolinate (KROME ee um pi KOE li nate)
Brand Name: Cr-GTF, CRM, Chromium GTF
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on May 2, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum
- Side Effects
What is chromium picolinate?
Chromium is a mineral found in certain foods. The body needs only trace amounts of chromium, and deficiency of this mineral in humans is rare.
Chromium picolinate works together with insulin produced by the pancreas to metabolize carbohydrates.
Chromium picolinate has been used in alternative medicine to treat chromium deficiency, as an aid to controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes or prediabetes, to lower cholesterol, and as a weight-loss supplement.
Not all uses for chromium picolinate have been approved by the FDA. Chromium picolinate should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.
Chromium picolinate is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.
Chromium picolinate may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.
Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.
Before taking this medicine
Before using chromium picolinate, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use chromium picolinate if you have certain medical conditions.
diabetes (especially if you use insulin);
an allergy to leather products;
a thyroid disorder; or
if you use steroid medicine (fluticasone, beclomethasone, prednisone, and others).
It is not known whether chromium picolinate will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are pregnant.
Chromium picolinate may pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.
How should I take chromium picolinate?
When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.
If you choose to use chromium picolinate, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.
Check your blood sugar carefully if you are diabetic.
The recommended dietary allowance of chromium picolinate increases with age. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. You may also consult the National Academy of Sciences “Dietary Reference Intake” or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Dietary Reference Intake” (formerly “Recommended Daily Allowances” or RDA) listings for more information.
Chromium picolinate may be only part of a treatment program that may also include diet, exercise, and weight control. Follow your diet, medication, and exercise routines very carefully.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
Overdose symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in your urine or stools, or coughing up blood.
What should I avoid while taking chromium picolinate?
Avoid a diet that is high in sugar. It may interfere with the effectiveness of chromium picolinate.
Ask your doctor before using an antacid, and use only the type your doctor recommends. Some antacids can make it harder for your body to absorb chromium picolinate.
Chromium picolinate side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using chromium picolinate and call your doctor at once if you have:
thinking problems, trouble concentrating;
problems with balance or coordination; or
liver problems–nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Common side effects may include:
sleep problems (insomnia); or
mood changes, feeling irritable.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What other drugs will affect chromium picolinate?
Other drugs may interact with chromium picolinate, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.
- Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 2.02.
More about chromium picolinate
- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- En Español
- 18 Reviews
- Drug class: minerals and electrolytes
- Chromium supplement Oral, Parenteral (Advanced Reading)
Other brands: Cr-GTF, CRM
- Chromium (Advanced Reading)
Related treatment guides
- Diabetes, Type 2
- Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation and Deficiency
What are the risks of taking chromium?
- Side effects. Chromium seems to have few side effects. There have been some reports of chromium causing occasional irregular heartbeats, sleep disturbances, headaches, mood changes, and allergic reactions. Chromium may increase the risk of kidney or liver damage. If you have kidney or liver disease, do not take chromium without talking to your doctor first.
- Interactions. Since chromium may affect blood sugar levels, it is crucial that anyone taking diabetes medications, like insulin, only use chromium under the care of a medical doctor. Chromium may also interact with drugs like antacids, acid reflux drugs, corticosteroids, beta-blockers, insulin, thyroid medicine and NSAID painkillers. These interactions may cause the chromium to be poorly absorbed or amplify the effect of the other medicine.
- Risks. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take chromium supplements. For children, consult a doctor. Some experts recommend that no one should take more than 200 mcg/day without medical advice. The Institute of Medicine has not set a tolerable upper intake level (UL) because few serious side effects have been seen with high chromium intake.
Chromium: The forgotten mineral
Published: January, 2007
It’s one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust and in seawater, but only tiny amounts are present in the human body. Its role in treating diabetes in animals was described in the 1950s, but its role in human health is still unclear. It’s wildly popular in the United States as a supplement for weight loss, but it’s not effective in that role. It’s chromium “” a forgotten nutrient that may finally get some respect because of new studies of chromium and heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol.
What is chromium?
Most men who think of chromium remember it as the shiny metal in the bumpers of their first cars. Chrome bumpers have gone the way of eight-track tapes, but the metal has a crucial, if incompletely understood, role in human health.
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