Clinical studies suggest that chromium supplements may be helpful for the following conditions:
Researchers have studied the effects of chromium supplements for type 2 diabetes for many years. While some clinical studies have found no benefit, other clinical studies have reported that chromium supplements may reduce blood sugar levels as well as the amount of insulin people with diabetes need.
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people with type 2 diabetes who took chromium picolinate had better HbA1c values -- used to measure long-term control of blood sugar levels -- than those who took placebo. The group taking chromium also had better fasting blood glucose levels, a measure of short-term control of blood sugar levels.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at a combination of chromium and biotin. Half the people in the study took chromium picolinate and biotin, and the other half took placebo. Those who took chromium and biotin had better fasting glucose levels as well as HbA1c values.
One study found that women who have diabetes as a result of being pregnant improved their blood sugar control when they took chromium.
But not all studies agree, and if chromium does help reduce blood glucose, it’s not clear how big the benefit might be. More research is needed.
Weight loss and obesity
Chromium is often advertised as a weight-loss aid and a way to improve lean muscle and reduce body fat. Studies have been mixed, with some finding that chromium may help people lose weight and build muscle, and others finding that it had no effect. If chromium does work for weight loss, it seems that the effects are small compared to those of exercise and a well-balanced diet.
Chromium is popular with some body builders and can be found in some sports nutrition supplements. But there is not much evidence that chromium helps people gain strength or build muscle mass. Most studies have been negative.
Animal studies suggest that chromium may help lower blood pressure. But so far it has not been tested in people, so researchers don’t know if it would work.
Clinical studies about whether chromium can lower cholesterol have been mixed. Some suggest that chromium may lower LDL or bad cholesterol, including one study that combined chromium with grape seed extract. In another study, people who were taking beta-blockers found that taking chromium raised their HDL or good cholesterol levels.
One small study found that chromium picolinate improved symptoms of depression in people with atypical depression. But a larger study found that chromium didn’t help. More research is needed.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use chromium without first talking to your health care provider:
Antacids -- Animal studies suggest that antacids, particularly those containing calcium carbonate (including Tums and Mylanta), may reduce the amount of chromium your body absorbs. Other antacids that may interfere with chromium absorption include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and omeprazole (Prilosec). Avoid taking chromium supplements at the same time as antacids.
Diabetes medications -- Because chromium may lower blood sugar levels, it may make these medications stronger, raising the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If you take diabetes medications, including insulin, metformin (Glucophage), glyburide (Diabeta), glipizide (Glucotrol), or chlorpropamide (Diabenese), talk to your health care provider before taking chromium. Your medication doses may need to be adjusted.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- These medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve), are used to relieve pain. Taking NSAIDs may raise chromium levels in the body.
Corticosteroids (prednisone) -- Taking steroids to reduce inflammation may lower chromium levels in the body.
Levothyroxine (Synthroid) -- Theoretically, chromium may decrease how much Synthroid the body absorbs.
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