Chromium is a mineral that helps regulate insulin function and blood glucose control in the body. It may also improve blood lipids, bone health, and cognitive function, but the available evidence is weak. Read on to learn the potential health benefits of chromium.
What is Chromium?
Chromium (Cr) is an essential micromineral, meaning that our body needs it in tiny amounts. It’s fairly easy to meet daily needs with a diet (mainly from grains) .
Chromium is safe for human consumption in the form of supplements, and scientists have been researching its beneficial effects on blood sugar control .
Health Benefits of Chromium
1) Chromium Deficiency
Oral and injected chromium are safe and effective treatments for chromium deficiency, which can cause insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and nerve damage. In practice, this condition is limited to patients on intravenous nutrition who don’t get adequate chromium supply .
According to a review of clinical trials, chromium increases insulin function and helps prevent type 1, type 2, gestational, and steroid-induced diabetes .
A meta-analysis of 25 clinical trials concluded that chromium, both alone or in different combinations, can significantly improve blood sugar control. Chromium picolinate showed the best results. A smaller meta-analysis from 2016 (13 studies) came to the same conclusion [4, 5].
On the other hand, a meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials and 875 participants found no significant effects of chromium on blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels .
3) Blood Lipids
In the above meta-analysis of 25 trials, chromium picolinate also significantly reduced blood triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol .
In 120 children with high cholesterol, a combination of chromium picolinate and glucomannan significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol but didn’t change HDL and triglycerides .
On the other hand, chromium chloride failed to improve the blood lipid profile in 47 menopausal women .
No valid clinical evidence supports the use of chromium for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.
4) Weight Loss
In 37 patients with type 2 diabetes, chromium (Cr) picolinate supplements improved blood glucose control and prevented weight gain .
Niacin-bound Cr (NBC) improved fat loss while sparing muscle mass in 20 overweight women when combined with diet and exercise .
Two meta-analyses of 20 clinical trials found a small reduction in body weight (0.5-1 kg) from Cr supplementation. The level of evidence was weak in both analyses, and the achieved weight loss may not have clinical significance [11, 12].
At this point, there’s insufficient evidence to recommend Cr supplements as a complementary approach to weight loss.
5) Cognitive Function
In a study done on 26 older adults at risk for cognitive decline, chromium picolinate improved memory and brain function. Further research is warranted .
6) Bone Health
In preliminary research on postmenopausal women, chromium picolinate supplements reduced bone reabsorption and improved certain markers of bone density by enhancing insulin function .
More studies are needed to examine the effects of chromium on bone health.
7) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
In 60 women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a Cr supplement improved acne and hairiness, decreased harmful inflammatory proteins, and enhanced antioxidant protection. However, it had no effects on hormone levels .
According to the available clinical evidence, chromium supplements may not help with:
- Physical performance [16, 17, 18]
- Prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) [19, 20, 21]
- Schizophrenia 
Chromium Safety & Side Effects
Chromium is likely safe for short-term oral supplementation in a daily dose of up to 1,000 mcg (1 mg). Possible side effects are mild and include [4, 5, 11, 12]:
- Sleep disturbances
- Irritability and mood changes
It is safe children and pregnant women in the amounts normally present in food. Supplements with higher amounts may also be safe in these sensitive groups, but they should use them under strict medical supervision .