by Brandi Schlossberg
Found in food sources and supplements—and necessary for optimal health—chromium is a mineral that has been linked to the enhanced action of insulin in the body. Many people choose to take chromium nutritional supplements because the mineral has been connected to the reduced incidence of diabetes, decreased blood lipid levels, weight loss, and improved body composition.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, the potential benefits of chromium listed above are currently among the most focused areas of chromium research. Scientists are working to pin down exactly how much chromium should be ingested via supplements to bring about these benefits, and to prove the direct connection between chromium and the reported improvements.
One of the reasons there is not as much hard and fast evidence or direction about the role of chromium in the body and the possible perks of chromium supplements is because chromium remains one of the less understood components of human health. The NIH reports that “no chromium-specific enzyme or other biochemical marker has been found to reliably assess a person’s chromium status.”
However, researchers have pinpointed several scenarios in which people may be more likely to have deficient levels of chromium and possibly need to take in more chromium through supplements. For example, people who consume diets that are high in simple sugars may have lower levels of chromium and may benefit from chromium supplements.
Other examples of cases where a person may have increased chromium losses include infection, pregnancy, breastfeeding, extreme stress and intense exercise.
Currently, there are quite a few forms of chromium supplements on the market. These supplements may come in the form of stand-alone chromium or chromium may be one of several components included in a blended supplement. One area of the supplement market where chromium is a common ingredient is in the realm of improved performance and weight loss.
The NIH reports that “few serious side effects have been linked to high intakes of chromium, so the Institute of Medicine has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level for this mineral.”
In other words, the use of chromium supplements is not likely to cause any unwanted side effects, but people are still encouraged to consult a health care professional before beginning to take any new supplement, including chromium. This is especially encouraged if a person happens to be taking any other supplements or prescribed medications, because chromium supplements could potentially interact with the other drugs.