Chromium is a mineral found in many foods and needed in trace amounts in the body. Although the medical consensus is that chromium is an essential mineral, researchers do not yet fully understand the role of chromium in the body. Researchers think it plays a role in metabolizing the carbs, fats, and proteins we synthesize into energy through its regulation of the metabolic hormone insulin. The metabolism is responsible for the process in the body that converts fuel into energy. So chromium can help unlock the energy in the food we eat.
Chromium picolinate is a supplement form of chromium commonly used to support blood sugar balance (already within normal range). This form of the mineral is very easily absorbed in its trivalent form, whereas the hexavalent version of the mineral is toxic.
Let’s jump into how chromium may benefit metabolic health.
Chromium helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels already in normal range. Normal blood sugar levels allow you to feel a clear mind and have consistent energy throughout the day. Chromium helps keep your healthy blood sugar levels in a normal range by supporting activity that carries glucose from your bloodstream to cells where it can be used for energy.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels can provide many health benefits. Changes in your sleep, exercise regimen, and diet can help you manage your blood sugar. Research shows chromium can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels that are already in the normal range.
While it’s possible to get chromium from foods like broccoli, green beans, meat, fortified grains and cereals, egg yolks, or apples, it’s often challenging to get enough from your diet alone, as dietary chromium may not be as bioavailable as chromiun from a supplement. For this reason, supplementing with Chromium + Apple Extract can help.
Food cravings are often impacted by hunger, stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and so much more associated with blood sugar imbalances. Given the understanding that chromium may boost insulin sensitivity, it may be a useful supplement for those who often experience food cravings.
A study in women found that 1,000 mcg chromium supplementation daily over 8 weeks resulted in better satiety levels. Another study found similar results on improved satiety. Individuals who supplemented with 600 mcg chromium daily experienced improvements in appetite regulation, including reduced cravings for carbohydrates.
As preliminary research suggests that chromium may help reduce food intake, as described above, a related body of research suggests that chromium may influence weight loss; more research is needed, however, before we can say whether chromium contributes reliably to weight control conclusively and over time.
The common scientific understanding suggests that weight management correlates with healthy blood sugar levels. A meta-analysis of 21 trials studying the impact of chromium on body composition in adults found that individuals who took chromium supplements lost significantly more weight compared to placebo groups. Doses ranged from 200 to 1,000 mcg. Total weight loss, however, was modest, with the average loss coming to 0.75 kg, or about 1.65 lb.
Maintaining healthy levels of muscle mass has several benefits. Muscle mass is the amount of soft muscle tissue in your body. It includes smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle. During weight loss, some individuals may inadvertently lose water weight or muscle. Research has shown that chromium works with your body to direct glucose from the bloodstream into your muscles and helps your body burn fat, instead of muscle, as fuel. This results in maintenance of muscle mass and less muscle loss during periods of weight loss.
One study found that football players who were given 200 mcg Chromax chromium picolinate for 42 days while weight training showed an increase in lean body mass compared to the placebo group by 44%. After 42 days of exercise and chromium supplementation, lean body mass had increased by 2.6 kg and body composition had increased from 84.2% to 87.8% lean mass.
Overall, chromium is no golden ticket to weight loss. While it may be supportive for certain aspects of weight management, like maintaining healthy blood sugar levels already within normal range, chromium should not be seen as a replacement for other healthy habits that contribute to weight loss.
Some foundational areas to focus on for healthy weight loss include proper nutrition, regular exercise, hydration, adequate sleep, and stress management. Eating so as to support blood sugar balance already within normal range is essential for overall health, as well as weight management. Build meals that incorporate foods containing protein and fiber, which can help slow down the normal rise in blood sugar after a meal and maintain healthy weight. Avoid or limit highly processed foods, including foods made with refined flours, and focus instead on natural, nutrient-dense alternatives. Choose complex carbohydrates that are whole or minimally processed, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, root vegetables, and fruits, as whole-food carbs naturally contain fiber and other nutrients to support maintenance of a healthy blood sugar response and healthy weight.
Deficiency in chromium has not been reported in the general population. Current dietary guidelines on chromium only suggest levels of adequate intake rather than established levels of requirement, so what we consider a deficiency remains only vaguely defined. And, because the data on chromium intake within the US population is limited, tracking potential deficiency is a challenge.
In addition, recent research on the possibility that chromium may not be an essential nutrient challenges the original consensus from the 2001 Food and Nutrition Board, which labeled chromium essential on the basis of its metabolic regulation.
Chromium deficiency is likely not common, and there is no consensus on what the signs and symptoms would look like if deficiency were possible.
Many foods contain chromium, with the best sources including grape juice, brewer’s yeast, whole wheat, ham, beef, and orange juice. While grape and orange juice are considered good sources of chromium, keep in mind that juices should be kept to moderate amounts or at least paired with a balanced meal in order to support blood sugar balance.
A healthy, balanced diet generally provides adequate levels of chromium. However, differing soil growing conditions and processing of foods can result in widely varying levels of chromium in the foods. Food sources of chromium have a fairly low absorption rate in the gut, though the rate has been shown to improve if taken with vitamin C.
No known adverse effects are established for higher intakes of chromium from supplements or food. However, given the limited data on appropriate intake levels of chromium, take caution.
The recommended intake for chromium is established as an Adequate Intake, which means “intake at this level is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy” and is “established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA,” according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
The Adequate Intake for chromium is 25-35 mcg for adults 19-50 years old. This drops to 20-30 mcg for those 51 years or older.
Amounts in food only get as high as about 7.5 mcg in 1 cup of grape juice, with most foods containing less than 2 mcg per serving.
In comparison, chromium picolinate supplements often come in higher doses of 200 mcg up to 1,000 mcg. Higher doses are the typical amounts used in studies that have shown potential therapeutic effects. Care/of’s Chromium + Apple Extract contains 200 mcg chromium per capsule plus apple polyphenol extract, which has also been shown in studies to support healthy blood sugar levels already in normal range.
As there is no tolerable upper limit established for chromium, it is generally considered a safe mineral. However, with such limited research, it is best to take caution and to supplement under the guidance of a trained health professional.
Always be sure to talk to your doctor before taking new supplements.
Those with pre-existing conditions should consult with their doctor before starting any new supplements.
Chromium is a mineral needed in the body in small amounts and is found in small amounts in many foods and in some supplements, often in the chromium picolinate form. Current research suggests that chromium can help maintain blood sugar levels already in normal range, maintain muscle mass and tone, and promote healthy blood flow. While chromium can play a complementary role in supporting metabolic health, it should not take the place of tried and true foundations to managing weight and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels already within normal limits, which include proper nutrition and regular exercise, among other activities. Although deficiency is rare, chromium in foods can be challenging to absorb. The established adequate intake for chromium is around 20-35 mcg for most adults. Chromium picolinate supplements may contain from 200 mcg to 1,000 mcg per serving, and these higher doses are generally considered safe for healthy people.