What is Chromium?

Chromium is an essential trace mineral needed by the body for various bodily functions. The body needs trace minerals in small amounts. Some function chromium is involved in includes maintaining insulin and regulating protein, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism. Chromium also has a role in DNA synthesis and is involved in the metabolism of nuclei acid.

The body is unable to synthesize chromium and will need to be obtained from dietary intake and if necessary through supplements.

The name chromium comes from the Greek word chroma meaning ‘color’ in reference to its colourful compound.

Health benefits of Chromium

May help with copper toxicity

Copper toxicity been linked to a number of health conditions such as Wilson’s disease, arthritis joint pain and ankylosing spondylitis. Chromium is a copper antagonist and can lower copper levels. Other cofactors such as sulfur and copper can also lower copper levels and potentially reduce symptoms associated with toxic levels of copper. Chromium is also anti-inflammatory, inflammation of the internal tissues and organs are associated with many health disorders including arthritis. [1]

Helps manage blood sugar levels

People with diabetes are likely to be at risk of chromium deficiency. Chromium deficiency can cause impaired insulin function which will increase risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There are a number of studies showing high blood insulin blood levels linked to chromium deficiency.

Chromium is involved glucose metabolism and can lower blood sugar levels which is why it is important for those on insulin or medications that help lower glucose levels to consult their doctors before supplementing.

Multiple studies have shown can help stabilize blood sugar levels in those with diabetes and insulin related conditions such as hypoglycemia. Some studies have shown the supplementation of chromium reduced the need for insulin intake by people with type 2 diabetes.

Chromium helps to form a compound known as GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) which is the active form of chromium. GTF is essential for regulating carbohydrate metabolism and enhances insulin activity by moving glucose from the blood into the cells where it is utilized for energy production.

Glucose tolerance factor consists of nicotinic acid, elemental chromium, and the amino acids glutamic acid, glycine, and cysteine. It acts as a cofactor for insulin and may facilitate insulin-membrane receptor interaction. [2]

Helps manage cholesterol levels

Chromium is involved in the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids including triglycerides needed for proper brain function and multitude of other functions in the body.

Some studies have shown chromium supplements can lower LDL cholesterol (bad), increase HDL (good) cholesterol and to lower high blood pressure all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

A deficiency of chromium is associated with increased blood cholesterol levels.

May help bladder infection

Chromium has been used for inflammatory conditions such as bladder infection (cystitis). Studies show that chelated form of chromium to resolve bladder infections and reduce symptoms.

Supports bone health

Chromium deficiency may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis due to its protective effects on bone density.

Due to chromium’s role in enhancing insulin activity this has bone protective effects such as promoting collagen production and bone resorption. Chromium is needed for parathyroid functions. The parathyroid is important for calcium regulation which if not working correctly can cause an imbalance with the amount of calcium in the body in respect to the amounts of other minerals needed for strong bones.

There is also a high incidence of osteoporosis and bone related health problems in western countries where consumption of sugar is at an all-time high. In these countries chromium is also found to be particularly low amongst the population. Sugar and simple carbohydrates are also high in western countries which can excrete chromium levels and cause a deficiency. In different parts of Asia chromium is much higher which is more likely due to lower consumption of sugar laced food.

Some studies on chromium have shown to improve bone density particularly in postmenopausal women. [3]

Agonist / Synergist

Vitamins: B3, B5, B6, B15 C

Minerals: K, Mg, Se, Zn

Chromium increases magnesium levels


Vitamins: B12

Minerals: Ca, Co, Cu, Fe, I, K, Mn, P, Se

Metals: Pb

Other: Phytic acid, high calcium, antacids and medications with calcium carbonate, periods of stress (from pregnancy, injury and trauma), sugar, alcohol, fat

Chromium like sulfur and molybdenum reduces copper levels

Chromium reduces potassium levels

Food sources of Chromium

Food sources of chromium include liver, meat, seafood, oysters, egg yolks, broccoli, potatoes, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, wheat germ and bran, molasses, raw onions, mushrooms, beans, cheese, bananas, oranges, grapes, alfalfa, carrots, green beans, green pepper, spinach, romaine lettuce and tomatoes.

Processed and refined food and especially simple carbohydrates are poor sources of nutrition including chromium. Grains which have the germ and bran removed or white flours are poor sources of nutrition. Phytic acid also binds to minerals preventing their absorption. Grains and beans need to be soaked, sprouted, fermented and cooked to remove a significant portion of the anti-nutrient or chelating agent phytic acid.

Recommended Dietary Allowance


Chromium: Adequate Intake (AI) in micrograms (mcg/d)


0-6 months

0.2 mcg

7-12 months

5.5 mcg





Chromium: Adequate Intake (AI) in micrograms (mcg/d)


1-3 years

11 mcg

4-8 years

15 mcg





Chromium: Adequate Intake (AI) in micrograms (mcg/d)


9-13 years

25 mcg



14-18 years

35 mcg



19-30 years

35 mcg



31-50 years

35 mcg



51+ years

30 mcg












9-13 years

21 mcg



14-18 years

24 mcg

29 mcg

44 mcg

19-30 years

25 mcg

30 mcg

45 mcg

31-50 years

25 mcg

30 mcg

45 mcg

51+ years

20 mcg





Research shows that high intake of chromium has not been associated with adverse side effects and as a result there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) established for chromium. [4]

Chromium Supplementation

Chromium is available as tablets or capsules and can also be found in multi complex supplement formulations.

Trivalent chromium is the active form of chromium and can be found in food sources. Trivalent chromium may be found as chloride, niotinate and picolinate complexes.

Chromium is also available as chelated chromium which has a better absorption rate than other chromium forms. Glucose tolerance factor (GTF) chromium supplements can be found as GTF chromium yeast.

Many studies have shown improvements on bladder infection with the use of chelated chromium.

Picolinate form of chromium has been linked to toxic effects with high intake in which case other forms may be preferable.

Deficiency symptoms of Chromium

Chromium deficiency may be common as many health conditions are now associated with low levels of this nutrient. Following are the symptoms of chromium deficiency:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Reduced response to sugar (glucose) in blood
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • High blood insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia)
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Risk of type 2 diabetes in older people
  • Increased requirement for insulin
  • Craving sugar or sweets
  • Reduced ability to metabolize glucose and fats
  • Inhibited protein synthesis
  • High LDL cholesterol levels
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels
  • High triglyceride levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Brain inflammation
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • Burning sensations in hands and feet
  • Osteoporosis (indirectly through impaired insulin activity)
  • Reduce bone density
  • Slow growth rate (in children)

Blood test can be used to check chromium levels. People with chromium deficiency may be treated with chromium supplements.

The following people are at risk of chromium deficiency:

  • Pregnant women
  • Athletes
  • Elderly

The following health conditions have been linked to a chromium deficiency:

  • Diabetes (Impaired insulin)*
  • Inhibited protein synthesis
  • Low energy production
  • Heart disease*
  • Stress*
  • Injury*
  • Trauma*

* These conditions can cause more chromium to be excreted or blood sugar imbalances which increases the need for chromium

Causes of chromium deficiency include:

  • Low dietary chromium intake
  • Low soil levels of chromium
  • Refined and processed food (simple sugars)
  • Phytic acids (excess)
  • High calcium (antacids, medications containing calcium carbonate)
  • Long term intravenous feeding
  • Diabetes*
  • Heart disease*
  • Stress* (from pregnancy, infection, physical injury and trauma)*
  • Strenuous exercise (athletes)

*These health conditions have shown to increase the excretion of chromium and increase requirement of chromium in the body

Many studies are showing that chromium deficiency in addition to high sucrose intake can cause atherosclerosis. [5]

Toxicity symptoms of Chromium

  • Toxicity symptoms of high levels of chromium include:
  • Low blood sugar
  • Skin rashes / skin irritation
  • Irritation of lungs
  • Irritation of GI tract
  • Irritation of the stomach
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Light-headedness
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Ulcers of the nasal*
  • Perforation of the nasal septum*

*These symptoms have been reported in workers exposed to Cr(VI) in chromate production and chrome plating [6]

Hexavalent chromium may be toxic to humans.

Causes of toxicity:

  • Excessively high intake
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

[7] [8] [9]

Precautions and warnings

It’s important to check with your doctor if you are taking any medications or have health conditions that may be affected by chromium before supplementing with chromium.