What Is Chromium?

Chromium supplements advertise many benefits, but not all are proven

Chromium is a trace element found in certain foods and the environment. There are two known forms: trivalent (chromium 3+) and hexavalent (chromium 6+). The trivalent form is found in foods and supplements, while toxic hexavalent chromium is found in industrial pollution. Due to its effects on insulin action, chromium is an essential nutrient.

Some people take chromium to manage diabetes, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and blood cholesterol levels. While some evidence supports some of these claims, there is not enough research to recommend chromium supplementation for any specific health benefits.

This article explains chromium's uses, possible benefits, and side effects. It also covers recommended dosage and chromium sources.

Foods that contain chromium
Verywell / JR Bee  

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF.

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safe for everyone or effective in general. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Chromium
  • Alternate name(s): Chromium chloride, chromium citrate, chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, or chromium histidinate
  • Legal status: Available over the counter (OTC)
  • Suggested dose: 200 micrograms (mcg) to 500 mcg
  • Safety considerations: Potentially could cause weight loss, anemia, thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), liver problems, renal (kidney) failure, rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown), dermatitis, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); may interact with some diabetes and thyroid medications

Uses of Chromium

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent a disease.

Researchers do not fully understand what chromium does in the body, but the mineral might help the body break down and absorb carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Some people use chromium supplements to control blood sugar in diabetes, manage metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome, control weight, and enhance muscle mass. But the research supporting these uses is underwhelming.

Type 2 Diabetes

Chromium's impact on insulin activity has prompted research on whether it could improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. But studies that examine how chromium affects high blood sugar levels or diabetes have produced mixed results.

Evidence supporting chromium for diabetes management dates back to a 1997 randomized controlled trial that evaluated whether higher intakes of chromium could improve glucose (blood sugar) and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers gave 180 participants with diabetes 100 mcg chromium picolinate, 500 mcg chromium picolinate, or a placebo twice a day for four months.

At two and four months, the 500 mcg group had significantly lower fasting serum glucose concentrations than the 100 mcg group. In addition, compared to placebo, both chromium groups had significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations and insulin concentrations after a glucose challenge at two and four months.

More recently, a 2016 review evaluated chromium supplements for glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The study, published in Nutrition Reviews, reviewed 20 randomized controlled trials. Only a few trials reached treatment goals with chromium supplementation, showing limited effectiveness.

The American Diabetes Association does not recommend chromium supplements for people with diabetes. More research is needed, the association says, to understand whether chromium supplements might improve blood sugar control in certain people.

FDA-approved statement

The FDA has approved the following statement for chromium supplements:
“One small study suggests that chromium picolinate may reduce the risk of insulin resistance, and therefore possibly may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. FDA concludes, however, that the existence of such a relationship between chromium picolinate and either insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes is highly uncertain.”

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Since insulin resistance is integral to the condition and chromium plays a role in insulin activation, some research has focused on its possible use in metabolic syndrome.

Research is limited and mixed. While an older study found some association between chromium and insulin response, newer research has not.

For example, a 2018 clinical trial evaluated whether chromium supplementation could reduce the resting heart rate of people with metabolic syndrome. Researchers gave 70 adult participants 300 mcg chromium for 24 weeks. Supplements did not affect fasting glucose levels, HbA1c, waist circumference, blood pressure, or lipid levels. However, it did reduce resting heart rate.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

PCOS is an endocrine disorder that can affect fertility. Because of the connection between diabetes and PCOS, some research has focused on whether chromium could reduce insulin resistance in that condition.

A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effect of chromium supplementation on PCOS. In seven randomized, controlled trials that lasted eight to 24 weeks, researchers found that 200 mcg to 1,000 mcg daily chromium supplementation had no effect on blood glucose or total hormone levels. However, it significantly reduced body mass index (BMI) and fasting insulin levels.

Another 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis looked at the effect of chromium supplementation on insulin resistance in people with PCOS. Researchers evaluated five randomized trials lasting eight weeks to six months. They found that 200 mcg to 1,000 mcg of chromium per day had no significant effect on fasting insulin levels or insulin sensitivity, but two trials showed lowered levels of insulin resistance.

The studies on PCOS are limited and show mixed results. Therefore, it isn't easy to draw conclusions, and more research is needed.


Dyslipidemia is a condition where a person has abnormal blood lipid (cholesterol) levels. Since studies have found a correlation between low chromium levels and high blood cholesterol levels, some researchers have wondered if chromium supplementation could improve blood lipid levels.

In a 2015 randomized controlled trial, researchers studied the effect of chromium supplementation on people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers divided participants into a control (placebo) and supplement (600 mcg per day) group for four months. While the study found significant effects of supplementation on glucose concentration, it found no difference between the supplement and placebo groups on cholesterol.

However, a 2018 study had more promising results. The randomized controlled trial evaluated chromium intake's effect on cardiometabolic risk, among other things, in people with PCOS. During the eight-week trial with 40 participants, researchers found that 200 mcg per day of chromium significantly decreased serum triglycerides and total cholesterol compared to placebo.

Research on dyslipidemia is limited and conflicting. Therefore, more research is needed.

Weight Loss and Muscle Mass Improvement

Some chromium supplements are marketed for weight loss, less body fat, and greater muscle mass. These claims are based mainly on the theory that regulating blood sugar reduces cravings. The connection between chromium and insulin has prompted limited research on the subject.

For example, a 2019 meta-analysis examined the effect of chromium supplementation on weight. The study included 1,316 participants in 21 trials lasting nine to 24 weeks. Those who took 200 to 1,000 mcg per day of chromium lost significantly more weight and significantly reduced their BMI and body fat percentage compared with placebo.

Other studies have also found modest benefits. However, the quality of evidence is low and of little clinical significance.

What Are the Side Effects of Chromium?

Your healthcare provider may recommend taking chromium to reduce the risk of some health conditions, like diabetes. However, consuming a supplement like chromium may have potential side effects.

Common Side Effects

There are few known common side effects of chromium supplements. There does not appear to be any concern for side effects in reasonable doses. Most side effects are related to excessive chromium intake.

Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects are associated with large doses. People with kidney and liver disease may be more prone to these effects, which include:


Certain medications may interact with chromium, including:

Dosage: How Much Chromium Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the ingredients and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs. 

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has established adequate intake (AI) levels for chromium:

  • 0.2 mcg for infants through 6 months
  • 5.5 mcg for infants 7-12 months
  • 11 mcg for children 1-3 years
  • 15 mcg for kids 4-8 years
  • 21 mcg (females) and 25 mcg (males) for kids 9-13
  • 24 mcg (females) and 35 mcg (males) for kids 14-18
  • 25 mcg (females) and 35 mcg (males) for adults 19-50
  • 20 mcg (females) and 30 mcg (males) for adults over 51
  • 30 mcg (age 19+) and 29 mcg (14-18) during pregnancy
  • 45 mcg (age 19+) and 44 mcg (14-18) during lactation

In addition to food sources, multivitamins often contain 35–120 mcg of chromium. Chromium-only supplements usually contain 200-500 mcg of chromium.

AI vs. RDA

Nutritionists at the Food and Nutrition Board set an AI when they don't have enough information to determine a recommended daily allowance (RDA).

What Happens If I Take Too Much Chromium?

To avoid toxicity, be aware of the appropriate dosage (above). The FNB has not established an upper limit for chromium. However, excessive chromium may cause side effects. So, if you consume more than adequate intake or more than what is recommended by your healthcare provider, you may want to seek medical attention. 

How To Store Chromium

Store chromium in a cool, dry place. Keep chromium away from direct sunlight. Discard after one year or as indicated on the packaging.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does chromium do in the body?

    Chromium appears to play a role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism by boosting the effect of insulin. Researchers aren't exactly sure how chromium works but suspect it binds to insulin receptors helping insulin work more efficiently.

  • Is it healthy to take chromium supplements?

    Most Americans get enough chromium in their diet that they do not need to supplement. However, if you do supplement, be aware of the risks. For example, chromium may interact with certain medications, and you may be more likely to experience side effects if you have liver or kidney problems. Therefore, it's critical to discuss chromium supplementation with a healthcare provider before taking it.

  • What are the signs of chromium deficiency?

    Chromium deficiency is rarely seen in generally healthy people. Symptoms of chromium deficiency have not been established, but studies suggest it can cause high blood sugar, unexplained weight loss, peripheral neuropathy, and confusion. 

  • Can chromium help you lose weight?

    In theory, chromium could stimulate weight loss by helping manage blood sugar levels, which reduces cravings. However, it’s unclear if chromium promotes weight loss. A published review of studies found insufficient reliable evidence to support the use of chromium for this purpose.

Sources of Chromium and What To Look For

Chromium is widely available in foods. Therefore, most people don't need to supplement. However, there are also many types of chromium supplements on the market. They may be available individually or as part of a combination product that includes other vitamins or minerals. When you're looking at a product, be sure to note how many micrograms of chromium are in the recommended dose.

If a supplement contains multiple minerals, vitamins, or other ingredients, be sure to research them so you understand what you're taking and how they could affect you.

Food Sources of Chromium

Chromium is found in many foods, including meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and brewer's yeast. Common foods and drinks with chromium include:

Chromium Supplements

In supplements, chromium is available in multiple forms, including:

  • Chromium chloride
  • Chromium citrate
  • Chromium nicotinate
  • Chromium picolinate
  • High-chromium yeast

It is not known which form is most effective in the human body. However, chromium picolinate was used in many of the studies referenced above.


Researchers do not fully understand what chromium does, but the mineral might help the body break down and absorb carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Some people use chromium supplements to reduce diabetes risk, manage metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome, control weight, and enhance muscle mass. Some evidence supports these uses, but not enough to recommend them.

As always, confer with a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement. Supplements can interact with medication, even when taken at a "proper" dosage level. So, talk to a healthcare provider about your situation and health risks first.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Chromium: Fact sheet for health professionals.

  2. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Fact sheet for consumers. Chromium.

  3. Anderson RA, Cheng N, Bryden NA, et al. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetesDiabetes. 1997;46(11):1786-1791. doi:10.2337/diab.46.11.1786

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  5. Nussbaumerova B, Rosolova H, Krizek M, et al. Chromium supplementation reduces resting heart rate in patients with metabolic syndrome and impaired glucose toleranceBiol Trace Elem Res. 2018;183(2):192-199. doi:10.1007/s12011-017-1128-6

  6. Fazelian S, Rouhani MH, Bank SS, Amani R. Chromium supplementation and polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysisJ Trace Elem Med Biol. 2017;42:92-96. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2017.04.008

  7. Heshmati J, Omani-Samani R, Vesali S, et al. The effects of supplementation with chromium on insulin resistance indices in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trialsHorm Metab Res. 2018;50(3):193-200. doi:10.1055/s-0044-101835

  8. Paiva AN, Lima JG, Medeiros AC, et al. Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical studyJ Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015;32:66-72. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2015.05.006

  9. Jamilian M, Zadeh Modarres S, Amiri Siavashani M, et al. The influences of chromium supplementation on glycemic control, markers of cardio-metabolic risk, and oxidative stress in infertile polycystic ovary syndrome women candidate for in vitro fertilization: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trialBiol Trace Elem Res. 2018;185(1):48-55. doi:10.1007/s12011-017-1236-3

  10. Tsang C, Taghizadeh M, Aghabagheri E, Asemi Z, Jafarnejad S. A meta-analysis of the effect of chromium supplementation on anthropometric indices of subjects with overweight or obesityClin Obes. 2019;9(4):e12313. doi:10.1111/cob.12313

  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Using the adequate intake for nutrient assessment of groups.

  12. Tian H, Guo X, Wang X, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation for overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;2013(11):CD010063. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010063.pub2

  13. Vincent JB. Chromium: Properties and determination. Encyclopedia of Food and Health. 2016;114-118. doi:0.1016/B978-0-12-384947-2.00161-6

Additional Reading

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.